The government of Puerto Rico plans to spend $750,000 over a 12 month-period starting in June to open and run commercial offices in Colombia and Perú — and launch a magazine to document its actions — to drum up business in Latin America and establish the island as the bridge between that region, Europe and the United States.
So said Economic Development and Commerce Secretary Alberto Bacó on Monday, when he confirmed that the two offices will each require $250,000 to operate.
The decision to move aggressively into Latin America came following Bacó’s participation in a private forum sponsored by Madrid’s Circulo de Empresarios, an organization that promotes free enterprise in Spain.
The event held last week gathered about 150 of the country’s top decision-makers, who were there to discuss opportunities for Spanish companies in Latin America, where Bacó said Puerto Rico could easily insert itself.
“The idea for the forum came about over a greater need to bring Spain and Latin America closer together. I was able to offer a 30-minute presentation to discuss the existence of Puerto Rico as a bridge, which offers particular benefits as a connection to the United States, as well as a bridge between the U.S. to Latin America and Spain,” he said. “We’re different from other locations in that we’re a U.S. territory that can offer fiscal incentives, different from any other jurisdiction.”
“We have professionals who are bi-cultural and trained in many areas, who are available at a lower cost and we have access to capital to help move along products that are in later stages of development,” he said. “All of those things make us different from Miami, for example.”
While in Spain, Bacó had one-on-one meetings with representatives from several firms, which he said will now consider Puerto Rico as an option to do business.
“For example, there’s a company looking for a location to establish its marketing centers and they found a value proposition in Puerto Rico. They’ll be coming to visit soon,” he said, without disclosing the name of the firm. “An architecture firm is looking to expand into North America and concluded it makes sense to do so from Puerto Rico.”
Choosing where to promote
One of the take-aways from the meetings is that Puerto Rico has not exactly done a good job promoting itself abroad, especially in countries where there has been an expressed interest in doing business with the island.
So, Bacó said the task at hand now is to promote Puerto Rico and “carefully chose the places where we do that because we can’t be everywhere at once.”
The decision to open offices in Colombia and Peru responds to their successful creation of “strong middle classes” looking to expand.
“These offices will be headed by Economic Development but will have representation from the State Department and the University of Puerto Rico, to promote education as well exports, so there is bilateral enrichment,” he said. “We want to get closer to companies willing to invest in Puerto Rico and use Puerto Rico as a bridge to the United States.”
The new offices will two others that Puerto Rico currently runs in Panama and the Dominican Republic.
As part of the strategy to generate business abroad, the Economic Development and Commerce Department will begin publishing a magazine called “Investing,” to document the results of the efforts. Creating that publication — which will be released at least three times a year — will cost another $250,000, he said.