Bilateral efforts between Puerto Rico-Orlando building strong ties for economic growth
ORLANDO, FL — Strengthening of commercial relations between Puerto Rico and this central Florida city by creating bilateral opportunities for business development and contributing to Puerto Rico’s reconstruction — especially in the southern region — was part of the recent visit of Gaby Ortigoni, executive director of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando (HCCMO) to the island.
Ortigoni said during the week-long trip, she was able to get to know the southern region first-hand and talk about the great opportunities that exist for both Orlando entrepreneurs and Puerto Rico business owners. The trip also included continuing to build those connecting bridges and developing relationships with businessmen and government leaders on the island.
Most of HCCMO’s efforts with Puerto Rico are focused on the southern region, as the recent earthquakes severely impacted this area in addition to the hurricanes, economic crisis, and the pandemic.
Salvador F. Rovira, president-elect, and Jessica Fernandez, executive director of the Puerto Rico Southern Chamber of Commerce, coordinated strategic meetings to solidify the partnerships between their entity and the HCCMO.
“Thanks to them we have connected with tourism and several groups that we’re joining forces with, just like here in Central Florida, so that this alliance is more productive and effective. The idea is that we will be organizing a trade mission to Puerto Rico next year and they will also come here, close to one of the dates of our main events,” said Ortigoni.
“We’re doing all this strategically so that the impact is measured,” she added. “Not just stay and visit, but each visit, each planning is based on a specific strategy to help each other given the importance of our relationships.”
Meanwhile, Rovira said this trip was “very beneficial” and which he is sure will have great results in the consolidation of companies interested in expanding and offering their services in both regions.
“We’re clear that Orlando has become almost a jurisdiction of Puerto Rico because of the number of Puerto Ricans moving there and those who are already living there. I think it’s the beginning of what could be an operation to strengthen ties between Puerto Rico and Orlando, especially the southern region,” he said.
Puerto Rico’s reconstruction on the radar
Another aspect they contemplated was Puerto Rico’s reconstruction of, especially the southern region, which was greatly affected by hurricanes, earthquakes, the pandemic and the ongoing economic crisis.
“We’ve identified in the conversations that companies’ operations in Orlando can expand to Puerto Rico; there are some great opportunities such as in construction,” said Rovira.
Ortigoni has led many efforts to help local Hispanic business owners — entrepreneurs from Puerto Rico who are interested in expanding or offering their services in Central Florida.
During this visit, she met top business and government leaders in San Juan, Ponce, Lajas, and Juana Diaz. She also met with Pedro Zorrilla, CEO at GFR Media and former HCCMO Board member, with whom HCCMO is also developing alliances to promote the economic relations between Puerto Rico and Central Florida.
Hispanics drive more than 30% of Central Florida’s economy. Puerto Ricans represent more than 50% of this economic force in this region. The multiple daily direct flights from the Orlando International Airport to Puerto Rico, the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans to Central Florida over the last three decades, and Central Florida’s fertile ecosystem for small business owners and professionals are some of the key factors that make Central Florida and Puerto Rico strategic business partners.
Juan Quiroga, CEO of JCQ Services and HCCMO board member; and Justin Nickerson, and James Tattersall from Tavistock Development Company (organizers of the Lake Nona Flavors of Puerto Rico in partnership with HCCMO) also visited the island with HCCMO during this business trip.
Ortigoni, born in Mexico and raised in Puerto Rico, feels a special love for the island and her desire to support economic development, “it’s the trip that has opened my heart and my mind the most. Puerto Rico is a paradise, that beauty is so great, the human warmth, the relationships that exist, despite the crisis.”
“I had the opportunity to grow up in Puerto Rico, that love I have for the island, I love it as if I were born there. And knowing that I’m putting that grain of sand and that it is mutual, that they welcome us with that emotion, impetus, we know that there are many opportunities to continue cultivating our relationships,” she said.
The trip came after the “Lake Nona Pineapple Festival: Flavors of Puerto Rico” held in June in Lake Nona, and from the approach from event organizers Tavistock Development Company to the HCCMO to join this festival inspired by the essence of Puerto Rico. She invited them to a meeting to learn more about the essence of the festival.
“It was the most successful event for them, one of the top three Lake Nona events. Based on that, I thought that the organizers would get to know Puerto Rico so that they would know its culture, the essence of what inspired the festival,” said Ortigoni.
So, they visited a pineapple plantation in Lajas and held a meeting with the Mayor of Lajas, Jayson I. Martínez-Maldonado.
Meanwhile, Ortigoni confirmed that Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón donated 15 police patrols to Ponce, one of the places most affected by natural disasters.
This is a separate initiative, but she stressed that this strengthens the security in that area.
“For us, this economic aid to Puerto Rico is a priority because if Puerto Rico is strong, we also benefit, we don’t want Puerto Rican businesses to come here, what we want is for businesses to expand here, not that the island doesn’t offer economic opportunities, but rather how we can contribute our grain of sand so that Puerto Rico can get out of this situation related to the economic crisis,” she added.
“That’s going to ensure better economic growth, because the safer a city is, there is more confidence for consumers and small businesses,” she stated.
More visits to come
A trade mission from Orlando to Puerto Rico and visits by Puerto Rican entrepreneurs to major HCCMO events are the works after this visit, Ortigoni said.
Meanwhile, Rovira confirmed he will be in Orlando to establish a work plan with the HCCMO and continue with the initiatives that they hope to be ready by the end of 2021, and lauched “aggressively” in 2022.
He noted the potential of several industries to do business such as health, infrastructure, technology, and the export of products and services, among others.
He added that the ease of traveling and returning to Orlando will allow the successful development of these plans, “the Mercedita International Airport in Ponce has one daily flight to Orlando and in October will begin two daily flights. Every day, the ties between Orlando and Puerto Rico are strengthened.”