The Economic Development Bank this week marked the end of the first phase of the Vieques and Culebra Tourism and Commercial Development Loan Program, which has already approved $1 million in loans that have created 74 new jobs split between the two island municipalities.
“We’re closing this year pleased with the reception and performance of these entrepreneurs, who were not afraid and decided on self-employment as a mechanism for future economic progress for themselves and their people,” EDB President Ivonne Otero-Guzmán said.
So far, the program that has $2 million to lend, has resulted in 44 new and retained jobs in Vieques and 30 in Culebra, she said.
“These 74 jobs that will be injected into the economy of Vieques and Culebra are the result of 43 loans approved by the EDB, which were worked from start to finish with the entrepreneurs, providing them the support and assistance necessary to build their ideas,” she said.
Through the program, the EDB offers direct loans ranging from $2,000 to $25,000 for projects selected by the Consortium for the Development of Vieques and Culebra, which is composed of representatives of the government’s economic development staff.
To qualify, businesses must be related to the tourism industry in both islands, take a training course to prepare a business plan, taking a business administration course, and receive the support of a business mentor for a one-year period.
New ventures funded
Of the 43 loans approved so far include those requested by Gamaliel Rohlsen-Santiago, who was able to buy a 25-foot boat and establish Gammys Water Tour, which takes tourists on snorkeling trips to pristine places such as Culebrita and the Luis Peña Natural Reserve.
“My boat fits six to eight people who I take snorkeling around the keys and serve as tour guide,” Rohlsen-Santiago said. “This program is excellent, the procedure was very good and well led, Thanks to this, my business is already paying off.”
Meanwhile, Jane Daubon of Harbor View Villas & Suites in Culebra said the Vieques and Culebra Tourism and Commercial Development Loan Program has been beneficial, “because you work with responsible and professional people.”
Through the program, she received a loan to repair her property that was built in 1989, to “make it more attractive for tourists.”
This Thursday, the EDB will begin the second round of business courses to take place at the W Retreat & Spa in Vieques, starting at 9 a.m. The agency has already identified 18-would be new small and mid-sized businesses to participate, and is seeking more candidates, Otero-Guzmán said.