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Puerto Rico is short 40,000 workers for post-hurricane reconstruction

The lack of manpower in Puerto Rico’s construction sector continues to be a challenge for the island’s government, especially to be able to carry out the myriad reconstruction projects that have started and will continue in the years following hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

The Economic Development Bank (EDB) held a roundtable with reporters to discuss some of the challenges the government is facing and its strategies for overcoming these obstacles.

EDB President Luis Alemañy and the executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), Manuel Laboy, discussed the COR3 “Build Puerto Rico Reconstruction Summit,” which is slated to be held next week. During the vent, the Labor Department will be recruiting workers to help with the island’s reconstruction.

Alemañy said that the private sector has 37,000 registered workers in the construction sector.

“We need to duplicate that number to be able to address the federal fund demand and the additional funds that will arrive to develop infrastructure projects,” Alemañy told News is my Business. “But we need to double that number, or we need 40,000 more workers.”

The goal is to have about 75,000 employees involved in the reconstruction process. 

Laboy noted that at the “Build Puerto Rico Reconstruction Summit,” around 20 employers from the construction sector will be recruiting workers. However, Laboy said he didn’t have a specific number on how many workers could be recruited at the summit. 

The president of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America’s Puerto Rico chapter, Carlos Rodríguez, said that “when we talk about the 37,500 workers in the industry, there are a lot of workers related to the industry … such as people that work in the warehouses, suppliers, truckers, the engineers, the architects, people that work with the permits and others that form part of the industry in indirect jobs, and there is also a need to fill more job posts in that area.”

Contractors from the mainland U.S. and other jurisdictions will participate in the event and could contribute workers to the reconstruction projects. 

The collaboration was established through the AGC, Laboy explained, adding that contact with a guild of electricians has already been made as well as with the National Home Builders Association.

“So, through them, we have made efforts so they can also listen firsthand how the projects are running right now and what is coming in the future,” Laboy said.

Alemañy pointed out that the EDB is offering lines of credit to employers, ranging from $1 million to $2 million, to be used as working capital.

“We give them that line of credit so they can execute their projects and be able to certify these projects and receive these funds,” Alemañy said.

He also noted that there are 4,166 construction companies on the island, which is 402 more than in 2018.

“The bank is committed to supporting the construction industry to create a more sustainable and resilient sector through different alternatives to access capital,” the EDB chief added.

Author Details
Author Details
Maria Miranda is an investigative reporter and editor with 20 years of experience in Puerto Rico’s English-language newspapers. In that capacity, she has worked on long-term projects and has covered breaking news under strict deadlines. She is proficient at mining data from public databases and interviewing people (both public figures and private sector individuals). She is also a translator, and has edited and translated an economy book on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. She worked as an interpreter for FEMA during the recent recovery efforts of Hurricane María and earned her FEMA badge.

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