Dozens of U.S. entrepreneurs recently braved a trip to San Juan to the join with local business people and high-ranking government officials, including the Governor or Puerto Rico, to begin the difficult process of rebuilding the island’s infrastructure and economy that were devastated by Hurricane Maria September 20.
Hosted by Miami-based Minority Chamber of Commerce (MCC) at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel in San Juan, Nov. 2-4, Governor Ricardo Rosello offered a message of hope to the nearly 200 delegates of the “Puerto Rico Economic Rebuilding Summit.”
Even as hundreds of thousands of Puerto Rican people across the island were still without electricity, communications, and clean water 47 days after the storm, the governor was intent on explaining to business leaders that while the process will be long, “the end result will be a better situation for all stakeholders.
“Sometimes it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Governor Rosello, who addressed the group along with members of his cabinet, FEMA officials, and Doug Mayorga, Founder and President of the Minority Chamber who organized the summit.
“But I assure you, I see the light and my team sees it. And that I see that with your commitment to Puerto Rico now, this recovery effort will not only be achieved by one sector or the other, but by entirety of Puerto Rico working together to build a stronger government, a stronger society and of course a stronger economy.
“My view is that in the face of devastation and great challenges, we will put our minds together, our thought-leaders together, we will get to action, and we not only put Puerto Rico back together again but will have made Puerto Rico the shining beacon of the Caribbean and of the Americas with a modern electrical grid, a great set of instruments for economic growth, and more stakeholders knowing they have the commitment of the government.”
MCC’s “Rebuilding Puerto Rico Economic Summit” provided contract and partnership information onsite in Puerto Rico, while focusing primarily on contracts, donors, and funding, the summit, the theme of the high-profile event was “Public-Private Sector Relations & Simplifying Reconstruction of Puerto Rico.”
“The summit provided important establishment of key contacts with federal, territorial, and local municipal government,” said Mayorga. Summit participants benefitted from direct interaction with U.S.-certified contractors, sub-contractors, philanthropic organizations, international financial institutions, programmers, and specialized agencies.
“We all share a common goal of addressing Puerto Rico’s economic reconstruction needs in the aftermath of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria,” he continued. “Each of our esteemed speakers focused on helping business people to cultivate the necessary relationships that will allow us to grow our businesses through participation in the reconstruction of Puerto Rico.”
Keynote participants of the three-day Reconstruction Summit included: FEMA Director-Region 2 Alejandro de la Campa; William Villafañe, Chief Staff of the Government of Puerto Rico; Fernando Gil Ensenat, Secretary of Housing; and Secretary of the Economy of Puerto Rico Manuel Laboy Rivera.
Category 4 Hurricane Maria slammed through the Caribbean in September, leaving behind such a path of destruction unseen in recorded history. At the time of the conference – about 50 days into the recovery – the vast majority of businesses, hotels, and street and traffic lights across the normally bustling downtown business and tourism district were not in operation.
Toppled banyans and downed utility poles littered city parks and streets. But beyond the metropolitan boundaries of San Juan the entire tree canopy that had been stripped was only now sprouting new growth – a sign that life goes on and the spirit of this island is not broken.
“I am committed and convince that with your help and commitment now during our toughest times,” Governor Rosello said. “We can rise from this challenge and building a much stronger and better Puerto Rico.”