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Puerto Rico to get 1st EDA-certified Economic Dev’t District

The US Economic Development Administration is set to officially certify Puerto Rico’s first Economic Development District, known as the Southern Puerto Rico Economic Development District (SPREDD), which has been operating as a pilot program since June 2020.

The Titín Foundation has been the driving force behind this initiative that ultimately seeks to strengthen the economy of Puerto Rico’s southern region through alliances between the public and private sectors.

The towns of Guánica, Yauco, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce, and Juana Díaz — all affected by the 2020 earthquakes — are participating in the SPREDD project.

“Later this year, EDA will officially certify and recognize SPREDD. It will focus on helping small- and medium-sized entrepreneurs develop a favorable business climate for the island’s southern region, an area of roughly 15 towns, with an emphasis on health, tourism, and agriculture,” the agency confirmed in a release.

Attorney Salvador Rovira has been “instrumental” throughout the certification process and will serve as president of the new Economic Development District, the EDA confirmed.

“When not practicing law, he works as a consultant to Puerto Rico’s health care professionals and sees it as an important component to building economic resiliency,” the agency noted.

“Health care is the largest industry in the southern region, which is home to six hospitals, including one specializing in cardiovascular services,” said Rovira. “EDA support, made possible in part through our new EDD, will be crucial in providing those services necessary to keep the health care industry going.”

Although Puerto Rico is often considered a top tourist destination, the southern region is currently capable of providing only about 1,000 rooms for visiting tourists.

Rovira said local developers will be working on several projects over the next few years to add an additional 400 rooms by 2025. Through SPREDD, they hope to lock down the EDA’s support for this project that will bring tourists to the region while creating jobs in the hospitality sector.

The southern region is also home to a burgeoning hydroponic agriculture industry. Through the new Economic Development District, Rovira hopes to create a food industry ecosystem.

“SPREDD will foster a continuance of hydroponic agriculture, one through which restaurants and supermarkets can provide for themselves through local producers,” he said.

The six municipalities participating in SPREDD have a combined population of 262,390, with an average unemployment rate of 11%, with Guánica leading the group with 14.8% jobless residents.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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