Puerto Rico businesses are missing out on making millions from federal government contracts each year, a shortcoming that represents a significant loss of growth opportunities. Looking to mitigate that, the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. on Tuesday announced the creation of the Federal Contracting Center, an office that will begin operating next month at the agency’s Hato Rey headquarters.
Through the FeCC, local businesses will find assistance to navigate through the often-complicated federal procurement process with the goal of increasing participation in the $500 billion market.
“Last year, the federal government purchased goods and services valued at $500 billion, of which Puerto Rico only grabbed $923 million, or less than 0.17 percent,” said Economic Development and Commerce and Pridco Chief José Pérez-Riera.
The goal through the FeCC is to drive Puerto Rico’s participation to more than $1 billion during fiscal ’13. Federal contracts generate some 18,000 direct jobs in Puerto Rico each year, a number that could exceed 20,000 if the projected increase in participation is achieved, he said.
The FeCC is the newest incarnation of the services that Pridco’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center had been offering for 25 years, but tempered to current needs. The agency will focus its effortson market research, training, developmentofcompetitiveness,andpromotionof Puerto Ricoindustriesamongfederalgovernment agenciesandthe most important contractorsinWashington, D.C.
Specifically, the FeCC will provideresearchandmatchingofopportunities, eventstopromotethe interactionof buyersandsuppliers, federalcertification programsthatfacilitatetherecruitment, assistanceand consultinginfederalproposal writing, among other specialized services.
During the news conference, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in Washington, Pedro Pierluisi, said the portion the island is nabbing of the federal contracting pie is “too small,” so Puerto Rico has to “redouble its efforts” to make more.
“Pridco has been very diligent in coordinating with my office to get better technical assistance from the federal government so that our businesses have all of the information they need to compete effectively,” said Pierluisi. “For many months, we have been collaborating to achieve an increase in the participation in federal bids that could represent a significant increase in federal investment in the island.”
During a news conference, Pérez-Riera said the needle industry, the metals and electronics industry, and the information technology industries are the three sectors with the highest short-term growth opportunities in the federal contracting arena. Combined, they generate nearly 16,000 direct jobs on the island.
“Of those three, the needle industry generated $300 million of the $923 million in federal contracts obtained locally last year,” said Luis Cintrón, president of CIMA Manufacturing. “That’s a minimal amount, in comparison to what the federal government buys in terms of textile products.”
At present, there are some 13 needle, or textile manufacturing, companies in Puerto Rico that Cintrón said have great opportunities to successfully participate in federal bids, which pay special attention to populations and communities that are considered minorities or at a disadvantage.
The needle industry has been organized for two years, and has established a strategy to improve its competitive position against other industry competitors to increase their participation in federal contracting, Cintrón noted.
For his part, Pérez-Riera said that through such clusters, “an environment of cooperation is created among businesses, which allows elevating Puerto Rico’s capacities and value offer.”