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US Dept. of Commerce officials visit Puerto Rico grantees to review progress

High-ranking officials from the US Department of Commerce are on the island this week visiting Economic Development Administration grantees to see how their allocations have been put to work.

During a news conference in San Juan, US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo offered a rundown of the funding that the federal agency has awarded Puerto Rico following double whammy by Hurricanes Irma and María in 2017.

As previously reported, the EDA has made several major grant allocations in Puerto Rico since then, including:

  • $9 million to Bluetide Puerto Rico, a nonprofit whose mission is to innovate and increase economic impacts and eco-responsible development for a sustainable Blue Economy in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean;
  • $9.9 million to the University of Puerto Rico to establish the Research and Entrepreneurship Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to promote workforce development and manufacturing by preventing disruption of services and research for businesses;
  • $8.5 million to the Jayuya municipal government to increase tourism in the region. The grant was awarded to carry out the necessary improvements to provide resilience to the tourist park located in the region of Tierra Alta and Hacienda Parador Gripiñas;
  • $3.8 million to Pathstone Corporation in Ponce to help finance renewable energy projects, and
  • Another $1.3 million to the UPR, to boost the productivity of Puerto Rican pharmaceutical companies.

“It is a moment of celebration because we’re seeing how Puerto Rico and the entire Caribbean are transformed, achieving a positive impact on the local and global economy,” said Castillo, who has held the position for a year.

The EDA’s goal is to help businesses gain a competitive advantage through the services they can receive with federal funds earmarked for this purpose, and by providing them with the tools and contacts they need to optimize this dynamic and responsible concept.

EDA Regional Director Linda Cruz-Carnall explained that the agency’s competitive programs that are awarded at the regional level have a “robust application and selection process.”

“However, we provide strong technical assistance throughout those processes to help applicants be successful, particularly as I mentioned, because we’re looking to work more closely with new customers and disadvantage customers providing access to our programs,” she said.

Today, EDA officials will meet with representatives of the Northwestern Puerto Rico Bio Manufacturing Cluster, led by the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, created to insert Puerto Rico in the EDA’s $1 billion Build Back Better Regional Challenge, an American Rescue Plan program that seeks to provide investments to boost regional industry sectors, as News is my Business reported.

Puerto Rico’s coalition passed the first phase of the selection process, which whittled 529 proposals down to 60. The next step is to select between 20 and 30 regional coalitions that will receive funding to develop their proposed projects.

In its proposal, the Northwestern Puerto Rico Bio Manufacturing Cluster — comprised by InvestPR, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, the UPR Molecular Sciences Research Center, and ALMMII/LIFT — seeks to address several industry concerns, including workforce development training, efficient logistics systems maintenance, and infrastructure (warehouse and cargo) challenges.

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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