, How Puerto Rico’s DDEC Secretary And Former CEO Manuel Cidre is Reimagining the Island to Attract International Investment, The Nzuchi News Forbes

How Puerto Rico’s DDEC Secretary And Former CEO Manuel Cidre is Reimagining the Island to Attract International Investment

, How Puerto Rico’s DDEC Secretary And Former CEO Manuel Cidre is Reimagining the Island to Attract International Investment, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Puerto Rico is known for its white sand beaches, crystal-clear water and, to some in the international business community, its low tax rates. In recent memory, the island has been plagued with economic struggles compounded by devastating natural disasters like Hurricanes Irma and Maria within the same year, testing the resilience of its people, resources, and infrastructure. But now, according to Puerto Rico’s new Secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, Manuel Cidre, the island is poised for long-term revival and business investment.

In April 2021, it was revealed that the U.S. government delayed providing Puerto Rico with nearly $20 billion in hurricane relief since 2017, hindered investigations into the funding delay, and falsely claimed that the Puerto Rican government wanted to use the federal aid to pay off its debt. Recently, those restrictions were swiftly removed. As a result, the island will receive a total of $100 billion to repair and rebuild the island’s infrastructure and strengthen America’s supply chain.

Because funding is no longer stalled, according to Secretary Cidre, Puerto Rico is about to undergo its own renaissance that benefits everyone from business investors to tourists on vacation.

Reimagining Economic Development

The focus of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, a Puerto Rican government department of 500 employees, is manifold yet consistent: implement strategies that combine commerce and economic development, while bolstering sectors such as education, security, and social justice. As newly appointed leader of the department, and founder and former CEO of his own Puerto Rican-based company, I spoke with Cidre on The CEO Show to explain the current state of Puerto Rico and give reasons for why investing in the island now is advantageous.

“COVID is under control here with our vaccination and hospitalization rates comparing favorably to that of the states. We have more than 5,000 FEMA projects and $70 billion to rebuild infrastructure. This is our turning point that guarantees from now that investment would be successful.”

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Importantly, Cidre cites the critical influence of the island’s resilience and how it is a tool for projects to come.

“Sometimes, between the natural disasters and the pandemic, you look at the glass half empty,” he said. “I prefer to see the glass half full. It is because of these phenomena that we have billions of dollars to transform the island in ways that will impact infrastructure like roads, bridges, energy, transportation, as well as education, safety and health for years to come.”

A Program of Entrepreneurship

, How Puerto Rico’s DDEC Secretary And Former CEO Manuel Cidre is Reimagining the Island to Attract International Investment, The Nzuchi News Forbes

Cidre’s belief that revival is inevitable for the island is backed by five core strategies: Attract and retain; Empower local entrepreneurship; Foster the ease of doing business; Build a workforce of the future; and Develop Puerto Rico’s geographic zones.

“We are reducing the cost of doing business, reducing regulations, and making Puerto Rico a one-stop shop for investors.”

Amongst the most competitive incentives to attract and retain are a 4% corporate tax rate combined with Opportunity Zone benefits that include 96% of the territory. Digging deeper into these strategies, Puerto Rico is investing in its 60-year history of experience in pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing as the largest exporter of bio pharmaceuticals in the U.S. and the highest proportion of STEM degrees. COVID-19 accelerated the national push to re-shore production of critical medical materials, and in so doing, tested the resiliency of its production pipelines that can extend to other industries as well. With 90% of air cargo passing through Puerto Rico being bioscience, the recently granted Air Transshipment Waiver makes Puerto Rico the second transshipment hub in the U.S and dramatically expands shipment and air cargo opportunities well beyond current capacity.

“Every year, 140,000 planes fly over the Puerto Rican skies,” Cidre said. “That number represents 140,000 investment opportunities to the island from all over the world.”

Moreover, the talent behind the making these reshoring efforts possible extends to the island’s growing tech sector, which spans digital financial services to AI and blockchain-based software development to cyber and IT security. Compared to tech hub neighbor Miami, Puerto Rico is already home to global companies such as Microsoft, Oracle and SAP.

A Versatile Leadership Strategy

Cidre’s career took a seemingly sharp pivot from founding and leading his own bread making company to leading an essential department of the Puerto Rican government. But it is his entrepreneurial mindset that shapes his approach to leadership.

“My advice to other CEOs based on personal experience taught me three key lessons: focus on results, cut everything that doesn’t bring value to the table, and follow your instinct to make decisions.”

These are three pillars that shape how he is bringing DEDC’s strategies to life. His goal for Puerto Rico, and his source of inspiration, is to become “the richest, safest, most prepared, most sustainable territory” in the Caribbean.

“My inspiration is thinking of Puerto Rico 10 years from now.”

To listen to the interview go to The CEO Forum Group

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