Puerto Rico Economic Revival Summit lays bridges between island, Central FL
ORLANDO, Fl. — Two panel discussions opened a productive talk with authorities and representatives from Puerto Rico and Central Florida as part of the annual event of the Florida Puerto Rican Parade that started with the Puerto Rico Economic Revival Summit in this city.
This year, the theme of the parade is “Economic Growth and Business Opportunities,” and is dedicated to the Municipality of Loíza, a center of Afro-Puerto Rican culture.
An attorney from Puerto Rico, Salvador Rovira-Rodriguez, a panelist during the summit’s first session, spoke about this opportunity and how significant it is for businesses to expand and explore more about “Puerto Rico’s economic revival.”
“There is no doubt, there are many Puerto Ricans here, many Puerto Ricans moved to Central Florida seeking quality of life, but they also have a sentimental attachment to Puerto Rico and maintain that desire, a living flame to return to the island. Events like these are very important because they keep that flame alive,” said Rovira, past president of Puerto Rico Southern Chamber of Commerce.
And, he also said Puerto Rico has certain issues in different areas that make it harder for an entrepreneur to operate or start their business in Puerto Rico, “but it’s a paradise, we hear about the incentives that the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, in Spanish) is giving and then that balances the issue out a little,” he said.
As part of that discussion, Carlos Fontán, director of the DDEC’s incentive office explained the advantages of starting a business on the island for entrepreneurs.
“It’s extremely important for us to be here at this event because we want to bring the message that in Puerto Rico there are opportunities to do business, we are an ideal jurisdiction to do business, and most importantly, we have the mechanisms, tools, and incentives to facilitate the establishment of business on the island,” said Fontán.
In this way, Florida and mainland businesses can take advantage of the island’s new revival and globalized economy.
“We have several incentive programs that many people are not aware of. There is a perception that they are only for multinational companies or for a select group of individuals, which is false. Any qualifying individual, from a young entrepreneur developing a mobile app to a manufacturer making doors and windows, can qualify for incentives,” Fontán said.
Former Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce President Kenneth Rivera Robles and Vice President Julio Aparicio also took part in the first panel.
Women leaders discuss emerging economy
During the second panel discussion, women leaders in Central Florida and Puerto Rico discussed how the emerging economic environment can benefit them.
At this panel on “Municipalities and Women at a New Frontier,” Loíza Mayor Julia Nazario-Fuentes, talked about how hard it had been for women to gain access to public service and business.
“As women are inserting themselves more, today we have nine women mayors, 11 in the Chamber and 14 in the senate. Yes, spaces are opening, but it has cost us,” she said.
‘We must continue opening spaces for women, because they look at what has to be said as if the universe belongs entirely to men,” said Nazario and, drawing applause from the audience.
About the challenges in Loiza, Nazario-Fuentes also said, “In my town, there is 23% unemployment, most women are raising children, they are single mothers, there is hope because they go out to study. And they have the desire to do things and get out of that cycle.”
Orange County Vice Mayor Maribel Gómez-Cordero said she is proud of her roots and the opportunity to serve in this role, adding “it’s the best moment to expand businesses here.”
“This is the best time to do business. People are bringing their business here; others are taking it to other countries from here. It’s becoming a development mecca,” she said, during the panel moderated by Luis Martinez, deputy manager of Multicultural Affairs & International Relations for the City of Orlando.
Gómez-Cordero discussed the foundation of NONA PR, a successful networking group located in the Lake Nona area.
“They [Puerto Ricans] have relocated and where they are going to live in Lake Nona, many come with business ideas. The idea is they can get certificated and become vendors to get contracts with the government. We already have success stories,” she said.
The panel included Orange County Property Appraiser Amy Mercado and Rafael González, President of the Puerto Rican Professional Association (PROFESA).
On Friday night, they will host a gala/scholarships Awards Dinner honors, while the Florida Puerto Rican Parade and Festival will be April 22, in downtown Orlando.
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