The Puerto Rico Products Association unveiled Tuesday five key recommendations gathered during its recent annual convention, to help the island get back on the path of cohesive economic development.
During a morning news conference, the trade group summarized the conclusions stemming from four workgroups comprising 29 private-sector experts that convened during the convention, and subsequently analyzed by professors at the Ana G. Méndez University System’s Public Policy Institute.
The first prominent aspect the group identified is the notion that Puerto Rico lacks a coherent strategic map that provides direction and sense of priorities to socio-economic development and competitiveness efforts. It was established that, at the time, there are multiple entities, studies and “very positive and well-intentioned efforts that are presented in a fragmented way,” said outgoing Products Association President Manuel Cidre.
“The result is that the necessary projection and focus is diluted. There is no strong, clear, or direct message. Obviously, the end result is delayed and reduced,” he said.
The opportunity created through this situation is establishing a “private sector body that is dedicated to connecting, linking and integrating existing efforts and organizations, to create synergies that enhance and optimize efforts, while creating a coherent roadmap with real possibilities of implementation,” said Ricardo Cardona, incoming trade group president, who appointed Cidre to head the initiative.
To that end, the Puerto Rico Products Association proposes laying the groundwork to establish a work group whose objectives are very similar to those of Fundación Chile, and whose primary function will be to act as the liaison for different elements that compose the island’s economic development ecosystem.
Another point brought up is Puerto Rico’s culture of shifting responsibility, and how that is at odds with the possibilities of speeding up the development of entrepreneurship projects. In this regard, the group supports launching a campaign to strengthen awareness and education on several fronts related to the need and desirability of “adopting attitudes and behaviors of empowerment, self-management and entrepreneurship.”
On the other hand, the group acknowledged that Puerto Rico has a reserve of “native” financial capital of some $40 billion to finance its economic transformation. This, among its various sources of investment and savings. Against this background, forum panelists foresee the opportunity to educate and encourage Puerto Rican investors to invest a portion of their assets in local business ventures, the executives said.
However, the recommendations collected also suggest that the island is deficient in training entrepreneurs to direct successful businesses.
“Therefore, we’re expanding and institutionalizing the Entrepreneurial Development Academy recently launched by the Products Association and and Quality for Business Success,” Cardona said.
“The Academy is a formal mentoring program for new entrepreneurs. In a three month period, it helps the student to develop a business plan, identify funding sources, prepare financial statements, create the identity of the business, use the Internet for the good of the business and prepare a marketing plan,” Cardona said. “This initiative ensures organizational transformation in creating business leaders and how to conduct business.”
Another point the group brought up is their belief that Puerto Rico does not have a defined position in the global market to attract more investment in certain sectors.
At the convention, the possible articulation of a strategy around the concept of the “Visitor’s Economics” emerged. The plan should include a wide ranging offer in the areas of health, education, entertainment, culture and ecotourism, among others.
Both Cidre and Cardona emphasized the importance of integrating efforts being coordinated independently by various organizations.
“Each of these areas of opportunity can be realized for the benefit of the island if we organize and articulate strategies that are consistent with success indicators,” said Cidre, while Cardona reiterated the trade group’s interest in fostering the island’s local wealth and prioritize initiatives aimed in that direction.
The Ana G. Méndez University System’s Public Policy Institute will be responsible for setting up metrics, and agenda and necessary documentation to get strategies going to support greater interaction among Puerto Rico’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.