Jorge Argüelles, who swore into his position as president of the United Retailers Association over the weekend, believes Puerto Rico needs more entrepreneurs, and he’s setting out to develop them.
To achieve that, the trade group he now leads is looking to enlist several local universities and schools to launch a school specializing in entrepreneurship for youth, “to begin waking them up to the idea that they can become their own bosses and have their own businesses.”
“No country can be economically viable and independent from foreign investment, and Puerto Rico has been on that path for many years. It’s time to wake up the population that sense of entrepreneurship,” he said during an interview with this media outlet.
Saying he “doesn’t want to see any more attorneys and engineers working at fast-foods because they can’t find a job,” Argüelles said the CUD, as the trade group is known by its initials in Spanish, will develop a program to provide the tools to build their own businesses.
By joining forces with the education sector, the CUD seeks to inculcate the idea that entrepreneurship is possible.
“We don’t have the expertise for that, so we have to do this in partnership with an educational institution,” he said.
That project is one of several that Argüelles has on his agenda, that also includes promoting the CUD’s recently opened co-working space at its headquarters in Hato Rey.
The trade group invested some $400,000 to establish the facilities for people looking to establish a business but lack the capacity to move into a commercial space and pay an expensive lease, he said.
“This also serves as a new business incubator. We also offer conference rooms and a space that accommodate between 70 and 80 people for workshops and seminars,” Argüelles said. “We now have to develop and market the co-working facility.”
The CUD has 5,000 members representing 168 different business categories. Traditionally, its members have strictly represented the small and mid-sized business sector, but Argüelles said the CUD is transitioning to include professionals — doctors, accountants, attorneys — into the mix.
The CUD is the only professional group to operate its own general insurance business, through which it offers health, life, dental and Non-Occupational Temporary Disability Insurance (SINOT by its initials in Spanish) to its members. Its providers are the Menonita Health Plan, MCS and FirstMedical. Insurer Triple-S may also join the group, as it recently presented two insurance products that are now pending approval from the Insurance Commissioner’s Office, Argüelles said.
The CUD has more than 3,000 insured customers who are direct members and their employees.
“My intention is to continue developing the agency to include other products, such as property and contingency insurance. What has held us back is that to offer those plans, you have to have a person on staff to handle claims as they come in,” he said. “We have to see how we can organize ourselves to eventually have our own sales force.”