Puerto Rico ‘has chance to spearhead Blue Economy on global stage’
Puerto Rico has the chance be the spearhead of at a global stage by joining the public and private sectors to make the necessary investments in Blue Economy projects, which represent economic development on large and small scales.
That said, nonprofit organization Bluetide Puerto Rico, backed by a grant from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA), is calling on all local impact investors as well as entrepreneurs and startups dedicated to the Blue Economy to take part in the Bluetide Caribbean Investment Summit, Aug. 17 at Vivo Beach Club in Carolina.
The World Bank defines the Blue Economy as the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.”
Juan Bauzá, the EDA’s representative in Puerto Rico, said the post-María Puerto Rico set the stage for establishing a recovery plan that looked ad different issues that the island needs to address, providing “a unique opportunity to blend creative economies with the Blue Economy and the resilience industry.”
“Puerto Rico can actually address the gaps and infrastructure needed to advance other economic opportunities, while being equally responsible and addressing habitat restoration issues,” he said.
“Puerto Rico can be the spearhead at a global stage of how we’re able to bring in the private sector to make the necessary investments, and have the government create the launch pads instead of asking the government to go into the full investment,” Bauzá said. “The government is not designed for that, the government is designed to pursue the greater good.
The EDA has allocated $25 million to advance Blue Economy projects in Puerto Rico, of which $9 million have been dedicated to the Blue Tide initiative.
During the second summit dedicated to the Blue Economy of Puerto Rico, the elements of the implementation plan for the development of the Blue Economy in Puerto Rico will be presented.
“According to what was established during the first summit last year, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands have a unique opportunity to lead eco-responsible business innovations in the international market, export services, technology, products and knowledge in Blue Economy Solutions to the world; there are great business opportunities,” said Bauzá.
The event will feature speakers who work hand in hand with Bluetide Puerto Rico to identify impact capital and develop metrics to measure investment risks and results. The lineup includes Howard Warren Buffet, president of Global Impact, Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy, founder and head of Precovery Labs, and Ziad Alexandre Hayek, former Secretary General of the Privatization Council for Public Private Partnerships of the Republic of Lebanon.
During a virtual meet-up with members of the local media, Sarkozy-Banoczy said developing a Blue Economy will generate both global and hyper local interest.
“You have local investors, you have local financial institutions, credit-unions, and others but you also have US mainland, broader Caribbean, and other institutional investors that have interest in what’s happening because these won’t all be extremely huge projects,” he said.
“There might be, as we say, ‘mom and pop’ projects that need an investment an equity investment or a loan,” to start a smaller ocean-related project, said Sarkozy, whose firm is dedicated to fundraising and building partnerships for a healthier ocean.
Sarkozy recently spoke at the 2022 United Nations Ocean Conference, when he spoke about the work being done in Puerto Rico, and the solutions that the island can produce that could pique the interest of investors. He mentioned as examples aquaculture, methods of habita restoration and biodiversity, new ways of using technology for sewage control, and the reduction of harmful chemicals and how they affect natural habitats and humans.
Meanwhile, Buffet will present the Impact Rate of Return tool specifically designed for Puerto Rico to measure the feasibility, risks, and results of impact investments during the upcoming summit.
“Companies from all industries looking to tap into the Blue Economy as an opportunity for economic growth are invited,” Bauzá said referring to local or recreational fishing, and other maritime opportunities such as transportation and shipping, technology, habitat restoration, hospitality, recreation and tourism, retail trade, needle industry, insurance industry, mechanics and engineers, coastal resilience, cleaning of coasts and beaches, and companies involved in the creation of energy through ocean resources, among others.
Meanwhile, Bauzá acknowledged that getting a significant number of Blue Economy-related projects off the ground will depend on the regulatory framework and public policy in place, Bauzá said.
“The big challenge that we have with the Blue Economy is that we’re not working on commercial real estate. We’re talking about real estate that’s a public domain, for the most part. It’s everything that in the coastal area and something that’s below the water,” he said. “So many investments opportunities are going to be a function of what how fast permitting can be acquired.”