Foundation for Puerto Rico gets ‘Excellence in Economic Development Award’
Foundation for Puerto Rico announced it won a Gold Rank for its Bottom Up Destination Recovery Initiative, a project in the category of Resiliency, Recovery and Mitigation of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).
The award was presented at an awards ceremony during the IEDC Annual Conference, which is currently underway.
“We’re honored to receive this recognition from the IEDC. What started with a group of 16 committed young professionals moving to Orocovis to support the recovery of small businesses and communities in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, turned into a four-year effort across 14 municipalities in Puerto Rico, strengthening community resilience from an asset-based and bottom-up approach” said Alma Frontera, vice president of Operations and Programs at Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR).
“Streetsense is honored to have co-developed the Destination Plans that are an important component of the Bottom Up Destination Recovery Initiative,” said Streetsense CEO Brian Taff.
“The plans ensure that The Foundation for Puerto Rico and the communities have a market-informed road map for investment that will create unprecedented opportunities for wealth creation and participation in the visitor economy by business owners and residents of Puerto Rico alike,” he said.
IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year’s most influential leaders. Twenty-five award categories honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the best of economic development and exemplify the leadership that our profession strives for every day,” said 2021 IEDC Board Chair and Invest Buffalo Niagara President Tom Kucharski.
“We’re honored to recognize the more than 100 communities whose marketing submissions, projects, and partnerships have improved regional quality of life,” he said.
Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers, following a nomination process held earlier this year. IEDC received more than 500 submissions from four countries.
The first phase of the program’s direct impact included resiliency training to more than 600+ small businesses and more than 61,000 hours of entrepreneurial education to start-ups. Through this process, hundreds of jobs have been retained or created, and 24 new business ideas incubated, providing unique tourism offerings that align with needs identified in each region including lodging, dining, arts and culture, and natural assets.
In addition, more than 3,300 product donations were distributed. FPR has also worked to implement recommendations included in the Destination Plans, which were completed by Streetsense, with the support of local cultural nonprofit Inversión Cultural.
FPR assigned more than $20,000 to revitalize one of Isabela’s key assets, the Guajataca Tunnel. In collaboration with the community, local government, and other NGOs, the initiative included the installation of wayfinding signage, solar lamps and recycling containers, cleaning of the areas, painting of murals, and set up for the gastro park.
This effort has resulted in more economic activity in the area with 25 businesses establishing their operations in the reopened asset leveraging spending from new visitors. Close to 300 additional businesses are being evaluated for municipal permits to establish their businesses in the area.
In Camuy, as part of its Destination Plan analysis, the team identified the reopening of Cavernas del Río Camuy as among the most critical strategies for growth in the visitor economy. Pre-Hurricane, the caves welcomed more than 80,000 annual visitors, that represented an annual economic activity of between $600,000 and $1.4 million. FPR was able to invest $125,000 to implement a range of improvements, enabling the reopening of the adventure asset.
This was possible thanks to a donation from the Peter Alfond Foundation and the collaboration of local key stakeholders. This effort has driven more than 17,000 visitors since March and has generated over $280,000, Foundation officials said.
The Bottom Up Destination Recovery Initiative is a long-term economic recovery strategy, funded in part by the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, aimed at addressing the impacts from Hurricane Maria through a community-led and consensus driven process.
The initiative includes two phases: the first is focused on short-term recovery and includes support to procure equipment/infrastructure, capacity building for local businesses and organizations, and efforts to strengthen collaborations among local stakeholders, while the second phase emphasizes longer-term planning around visitor economy investment strategies.
In total, the program funded the creation of eight Destination Plans across Puerto Rico which identified short- to long-term investment strategies aimed at bolstering the visitor economy to create new economic opportunities for locals. In this self-sustainable program, the community and local government in each region learns to maintain and further develop the program once the phases of resource identification, planning, and co-design by FPR is completed.