Puerto rico cvb: CVB Contacts — Puerto Rico

Meeting Mentor Magazine

When Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico’s southwest region on September 18, a small group of ConferenceDirect associates and a client were already a couple of days into a fam trip to the island — though all had been keeping a wary eye on the weather forecast.

Fiona, which was just beginning to take shape as a storm of concern and had a wide “spaghetti model” path when participants boarded their planes on Sept. 15, was a concern, but not an overwhelming one. As ConferenceDirect Global Account Executive Mark Buonagurio said, “The path of Fiona was still not perfectly determined, and it was still just forming into a tropical storm, so I didn’t consider cancelling.” CD Global Account Executive Sonja Haddad added, “I reached out to the CVB and was made aware that they were following the updates closely. The time, energy and resources utilized to execute a fam should never be taken lightly. If they were willing to proceed then I should be as well, with the assurance that safety was a priority.

As it turns out, none of the seven participants backed out of the trip, which was organized by the island’s destination marketing organization Discover Puerto Rico. And the first few days went exactly as planned, with participants visiting top meeting properties including their host property, the El Conquistador Resort (with a day trip to the exclusive Isla Palaminos island just off the coast of Fajardo), the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Puerto Rico Golf & Beach Resort, the Hyatt Regency Grand Reserve, the Royal Sonesta San Juan, the Caribe Hilton, the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, and the Concha Renaissance Resort.

As Tropical Storm Fiona morphed into a hurricane and made landfall, Discover Puerto Rico stayed on top of the situation, sharing critical updates through its website, social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and on the destination website’s travel advisory, with an easy-to-understand product tracker infographic, indicating the status of popular places and attractions in the following days.

“I was definitely concerned, and I considered departing early,” said Global Account Executive Taylor Miller. “However, I decided that Discover Puerto Rico and the properties put a lot of time and energy into making this visit and experience for us, I wanted to respect that by finishing out the fam.” And Miller is glad she did. “All the hotel employees and our hosts radiated calmness and preparedness, which definitely put my mind at ease.”

Grace Under Pressure

Led by hosts Yarimar Vasallo, Destination Experience Manager for Discover Puerto Rico, and Yolanda Gonzalez, Director of National Accounts for Discover Puerto Rico, the group was at El Conquistador on Sunday when the hurricane hit the island full force. But even before Fiona developed into a hurricane, the hotel relocated the buyers, staying in the recently remodeled Marina Deluxe rooms, to the Brisas building on its property, which sits 300 feet above sea-level, as a precaution. Once the storm intensified, Discover Puerto Rico quickly adjusted the remaining itinerary, shifting flights home to Tuesday and relocating the group to the Royal Sonesta, which is closer to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, for their final night’s stay. By Monday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the storm made landfall, the airport was open and running on schedule.

Having learned from previous experience with natural emergencies, El Conquistador Resort’s infrastructure includes generators that which can operate 100% of the resort if needed, and water cisterns which can support the resort for several days. The property also housed key employees, supervisors and managers on site so the resort could operate as usual.

Safe and Secure

“I felt safe throughout the experience because the staff of the El Conquistador communicated frequently regarding their emergency preparedness,” Buonaurio said. “Luis Mendez, the Complex Director of Sales and Marketing, had let us know at least a day before that, out of an abundance of caution, they would be moving us to different rooms on higher ground – and their staff would take care of moving our bags while we were siting other hotels.  Their generators worked as planned, and several members of their staff stayed at the hotel to keep operations running smoothly.”

Haddad added, “The communication was seamless, the safety measures put into place (well in advance) were noticeable — it became abundantly clear to me that the hotels, their staff and their leadership knew exactly what they are doing to prepare the properties for this scenario.” She also gave a shout-out to the property’s engineering team, which “was poised and positioned for the power to go down on the island and made preparations for the hotel generators to transition safely,” she said. “The General Manager was watching over everything, greeting guests with a smile, much like the captain of a ship. The housekeeping department was armed with mops and towels and arrived at the guest rooms immediately when someone called for assistance with water. Security was present and monitored all entryways to ensure guests were able to travel through the property safely.

“If I was asked, what made the difference during that weekend, my honest answer is, the resort’s infrastructure, of course, but also our team members, who went above and beyond their call of duty to service our guests and at the same time, kept our areas clean and safe,” said El Conquistador’s Luis Mendez.

Handling the Curve Balls in Style

“When you feel safe, you can laugh at the crazy curve balls that life throws your way,” said Haddad. “We shared countless moments of laughter with the staff and our fellow CD colleagues. We even conducted a strategy meeting with the hotel and CVB leadership, while Fiona was in full force and the power was out on the island. Inside that meeting room, you wouldn’t have even known there was a major event taking place outside.”

Among the more memorable hurricane-related moments, Miller said, was “taking a yoga class from the amazing Yari with my fellow CD colleagues in the middle of a hurricane.  Hearing the wind raging outside while in downward facing dog was oddly cathartic.” Even when lightning struck too close for comfort, the group still shared a big laugh when the next round of cancelled flights were received via text, said Haddad.

Miller said, “The experience is one I won’t forget. I can check ‘Being in a Hurricane’ off my bucket list. All jokes aside, Puerto Rico was a really beautiful experience.  Each of the properties we toured were unique, and the people I encountered were all absolutely lovely.” Buonagurio agreed, saying, “The experience was exceptional. One notices the beauty of Puerto Rico first, but the overall friendliness of the people we met everywhere was most memorable — the people of Puerto Rico take great pride in their home and being hospitable to guests. The number and variety of quality hotels that service groups, and the amount of meeting space they offer, was notable. We also had so many fantastic meals!”

He added, “I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Puerto Rico to a customer.  There are plenty of direct flights from major cities, the airport experience was good, the hotels were fantastic and easy to access, there are lots of activities available, and it’s a beautiful island.

“Most importantly, in the face of adversity, the hotels showed they were prepared with contingencies and executed successfully against those plans,” he said. Haddad agreed, saying, “I have already begun explaining to my clients that Puerto Rico is an excellent solution for their conference needs. The natural beauty this island offers is unparalleled, and they clearly know how to overcome big unexpected challenges!”

Preparing For The Future | www.themeetingmagazines.com

CVBs and DMOs Adapted During the PandemicBy Nancy Mueller


December 16, 2021

CVBs and DMOs Adapted During the Pandemic

One of many tactics the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau uses to help its recovery is to tout the area’s natural beauty. Courtesy of San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

As one of the most vital lifelines to corporate meeting planners and local businesses, CVBs and DMOs have learned how to weather the COVID-19 pandemic roller coaster as well as any entity in the travel and tourism industry. Without the benefit of having a crystal ball to predict the year, let alone months ahead, they have nevertheless deftly navigated the sometimes strange, mostly knot-in-the-stomach-inducing uncertainty of an industry in crisis.

Here’s a look at how they have fared, their recovery efforts and hopeful plans for the future as the U.S. slowly continues to emerge from the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.

Pandemic’s Toll

Reduced budgets, staff reductions, shorter work weeks — in essence, overall fewer resources — presented new challenges for the ability of CVBs and DMOs to stay afloat and relevant as the pandemic took hold across the country. Locally, small businesses struggled with fewer visitors and weakened supply chains, forcing closures and salary cuts. Additionally, nonprofits lost fundraising opportunities while associations faced “declining memberships due to economic hardship,” says Sandy Ward, CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism in Washington state.

Nan Devlin, MTA, executive director of Tillamook Coast Visitors Association in Oregon, adds that “Restaurants [were] hit hard, especially with constantly changing COVID guidelines and restrictions. And staffing shortages hit businesses the hardest. They are coping with overworked and stressed employees, more days closed, and limited hours when they are open.” And yet, “Somehow, nearly all have coped, changing between takeout meals to only 25% capacity, to full capacity.”

Staff reductions and tighter budgets hit many CVBs and DMOs hard in the early days of the pandemic. “Staff [was] reduced to 30% of our pre-pandemic level, 13 international partner agency contracts were paused immediately in March 2020, and our budget was down 75%,” says Elisabeth Wieselthaler-Toelly, MBA, former vice president, global PR & media relations for the San Francisco Travel Association (SFTA).

At Visit Indy, the Indiana Convention Center invested $7 million in new health and safety upgrades.

For Visit Indy, in addition to reducing the team and moving to a four-day work week, the pandemic necessitated “significantly reducing our sales and marketing investments, drawing funds from reserves, and pursuing funds from federal relief programs,” says Leonard Hoops, president & CEO.

Ed Carey, chief sales officer for Discover Puerto Rico, described the significant impact on the commonwealth, “Due to Puerto Rico’s unique position as an island destination reliant on air and cruise visitors, the territory was impacted more quickly and severely than many other U.S. destinations,” he says. “Additionally, we were the first state or territory to issue strict measures, including stay-at-home orders and curfews. The pandemic presented unique challenges, particularly for our valued local partners. The tourism sector is a critical piece in the island’s economy, accounting for 84,000 jobs that are impacted directly and indirectly prior to COVID-19.

Location also played a critical role in Alaska’s pandemic’s economic impact, where the state’s position in the northernmost part of the North American continent put the region “at a distinct disadvantage due to its isolation,” as noted in a late spring 2021 report by the Alaska Travel Industry Association. “With cruise ships banned and highway borders closed, travelers had to rely on airplanes and very limited ferry service to reach the state,” the report states

Although Michelle Russ, STS, vice president of sales, sports & events for Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism in Alabama, acknowledges that they “were extremely fortunate as a beach destination to welcome guests back in early summer 2020,” she also mentions, “We are certainly feeling the national staffing shortages across our tourism-based businesses.”

Positive Impact

Creative collaboration, enhanced communication and virtual experiences each represent but a few of the positive changes that have resulted despite the pitfalls presented by COVID-19. CVBs and DMOs rose to the challenge both out of necessity and their own resiliency. “We have learned to expect the unexpected and adapt quickly,” Russ says. “We have stayed in communication with current and potential clients about the state of our destination, and have expanded our digital marketing resources to meet planners where they are and stay top-of-mind for future planning.”

Despite the hardships experienced by the pandemic, many CVB and DMO leaders say they were forced to adapt and are now stronger for it. “The pandemic made us a lot more creative, nimble, [and] innovative, than before,” says Sonia Fong, formerly vice president of convention sales & services for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), and now senior vice president of convention development for Louisville Tourism.

Vicki Logan, convention sales manager for Travel Juneau, agrees. “We’ve had to find new creative ways to fulfill our mission with fewer resources.”

Employees also learned how to work remotely via Zoom, Teams, WebEx and other digital platforms, Hoops says, adding, “In addition, following the murder of George Floyd and the nationwide civil unrest shortly thereafter, we have increased our efforts toward diversity, equity and inclusion.

Collaboration among industry partners has always been a huge part of getting things done in the meetings and events industry. But during the height of the pandemic — and still as things are waning a bit — partnerships have become more intimate and more important since the onset of the pandemic. “We’ve partnered with a regional community foundation on a program called ‘Inclusive City’ and organized a DEI assessment, not just for ourselves, but for eight other organizations in a group we collectively call the Indy Civic Leadership Alliance,” Hoops says.

Fong and Carey each note that the Miami and Puerto Rico regions are no strangers to adversity. Miami has weathered its share of hurricanes, while Discover Puerto Rico has also endured hurricanes and earthquakes. These crises went a long way to preparing them for the pandemic. “We were able to pivot quickly at the start of the pandemic because of the extensive crisis preparedness measures we had already taken,” Carey says. “When Discover Puerto Rico was created in 2017, we immediately went to work creating a crisis playbook, which included scenarios from hurricanes to political unrest, to even a pandemic scenario which we were able to adapt for COVID-19. ” Beyond that, Carey says, “Our local partners at the Puerto Rico Tourism Company quickly created a certification program and other resource guides to help tourism partners and planners resume meetings and other initiatives safely, and we shifted our marketing strategies to rely more heavily on virtual and hybrid offerings in the group space.”

In early winter 2020, Visit Tillamook partnered with the Tillamook County Creamery Association “to offer $200,000 in marketing resiliency grants to our community,” Devlin says. “We encouraged collaboration among businesses, and the 16 lead recipients helped a total of 90 businesses. We also co-sponsored #tillamooktakeout campaign with the Tillamook Chamber of Commerce to encourage local support for restaurants. Our $4,000 investment resulted in $4 million in sales for participating businesses. Restaurant owners said it kept them in business during their darkest hours.”

Other tactics employed by various CVBs and DMOs included filming promotional videos for the CVB and local businesses, as well as creating virtual FAM tours to keep planners updated on the latest information. “When the COVID quarantines first went into effect and our island lodgings were closed, we abruptly pivoted to promoting videos and virtual tours produced by businesses and other islanders,” says Amy Nesler, communications/stewardship manager of the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau in Washington state. “All conventional advertising was pulled in favor of encouraging the purchase of gift cards and other e-commerce and keeping people ‘dreaming’ of future travel.”

At Discover Puerto Rico, Carey’s team “hosted virtual planner FAMs as another way to ensure planners stayed up-to-date on the latest health and safety protocols in place, while seeing new venues, hotels, and experiencing technology advancements such as the hybrid capabilities in the Puerto Rico Convention Center, the most technologically advanced in the Caribbean,” he says. In addition, Carey said his team “created a series of ‘Virtual Vacays’ that kept our local partners front and center for audiences globally. Beyond social … through the DMO, Puerto Rico became the first destination to offer live-guided tours utilizing Google Earth on Facebook Live … partnering with a personable local tour guide.

Strengthening communication among all partners has also played a key strategic role in recovery efforts for CVBs and DMOs. At Discover Puerto Rico, “In addition to the tourism partner certification program, we increased communication with stakeholders. Clear and constant communication is particularly important, including that with meeting planners — both from us to them, and vice versa,” Carey says. Specifically, “We ensured lines of communication remained open, for all to be aware of the latest information that may impact an event, including government regulations, event permits, as well as screening procedures at our airports. We were keen to understand the concerns and needs of planners to best accommodate them in the future, so we held a series of roundtable discussions with meeting planners across the country.”

Sandy Ward, CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, says her agency used many measures to recover from the pandemic. Courtesy Photo

Other New Initiatives

When the travel and tourism took the dramatic, unexpected downturn in early spring 2020, CVBs and DMOs wasted little time in planning new campaigns and initiatives. At Visit Indy, the Indiana Convention Center invested $7 million in new health and safety upgrades, while at the San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau, marketing communications amplified the need to strike a balance between supporting island businesses and protecting the environment. “This is done through subject choice and wording in our social media and advertising,” Nesler says. For starters, the CVB, “following the lead of destinations like Palau, New Zealand and Aspen, created the San Juan Islands Pledge that visitors are encouraged to sign before boarding the ferry or floatplane. When you act as an ecologically and socially responsible visitor, you are actively contributing to the future of the San Juans.”

In the summer of 2021, Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism initiated a “Worth the Wait” campaign “to communicate that Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are ‘worth the wait’ despite staffing shortages, and to give guests a few ideas to make the most of their precious time on the coast,” Russ says. In addition, “We have expanded the meeting planner marketing toolkit on our website to provide planners with free, ready-to-go resources to make planning meetings on the Alabama Gulf Coast more efficient. Items in the toolkit include a custom digital save-the-date, custom digital banner ads, visual assets, pre-written destination copy and a PDF of popular restaurants and activities.”

The SFTA also rolled out two new campaigns in 2021: “#OurGateIsOpen and “MeetLocal, both targeting regional and domestic visitors,” Wieselthaler-Toelly says.

While Fong was at the GMCVB, she says, the “… recovery campaign focused on the outdoors, with special mention of the Everglades and parks, for instance. [They] also highlighted the multicultural heritage in different neighborhoods to show what makes the area unique. Locally, [they supported] restaurants through the Miami Spice program,” now in its 18th year of operation.

With a focus on helping the food industry as well, Visit Tillamook “went to work on big projects,” Devlin says. “We are implementing more workforce training programs, and [developed] a food business innovation center to help our local producers and entrepreneurs. We [hope to find] funding to build commercial kitchens and cold storage units, provide food processing equipment and culinary training classes, and form a food hub and delivery system to help our farmers and fishers.”

At Discover Puerto Rico, “We developed a new advertising campaign focused on the concept of ‘time,’ with our creative agency R&R partners,” Carey says. “It was specifically designed to seamlessly evolve in different phases as we progressed during the pandemic. The campaign was fully produced in-house by Discover Puerto Rico’s multimedia team, and rolled out in phases to allow the DMO to deftly move between messaging as restrictions on the Island changed.” The campaign’s messaging evolved from Phase I during lockdown — “All in Good Time;” to Phase II, “Time to Plan” and “Time to Book;” to its current rendition, “It’s Time” — to incentivize travelers to visit Puerto Rico now that inbound tourism has reopened.

Puerto Rico offers an abundance of water activities. Courtesy of Island Venture

The Road Ahead

In looking toward a brighter future, CVBs and DMOs emphasize the importance of proactively engaging with partners in travel and tourism to prepare for the next potential crisis. For Devlin, “The [variants], hitting mostly unvaccinated people, threaten business closures again. Restaurants, retail, museums and event venues will again be hit hardest. This is what keeps me up at night. If they have to close again, it could mean closing for good, and that would be terrible for all of us.” With that in mind, Devlin says, “We have updated our crisis communications plan to include pandemics — we had earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, fires — but not pandemics. We are also revising our strategic plan to include ways to support public safety and emergency management organizations.”

From Nesler’s perspective, “DMOs and CVBs have the opportunity to show leadership in how tourism is managed in their destination and be proactive to keep the pendulum from swinging toward over tourism. Sustainable tourism is no longer enough; it’s time to get behind regenerative travel — [i.e. ‘making sure that what we do now feeds back into the system from which we benefit’ — as defined by the World Travel and Tourism Council]. It’s about being proactive and intentional.” Nesler continues: “The climate crisis is already here and evolving rapidly. We promote ways travelers can lighten their footprint and provide information to island businesses on ways to do the same.” Staying abreast of current safety and health protocols, updating crisis management tools, plus providing ongoing staff training, are all critical components in order to be prepared for whatever crisis comes next.

Meanwhile, in addition to new outdoor venues, new hotels and restaurant openings around the country, CVBs and DMOs anticipate such future events as the recent grand reveal in Puerto Rico of DISTRITO T-Mobile, and celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the city of San Juan spanning 2021 and into 2022; Visit Indy eagerly awaits its hosting role to the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship; Visit Tillamook will host the 2022 Swiss Society Centennial event, celebrating the heritage of the region’s dairy farmers; and the GMCVB hosted Art Basel Miami in late 2021 and will host the International Boat Show early this year.

Best Tips for Meeting Planning

In preparing to meet the future, CVBs and DMOs cite the essential role meeting planners play in their recovery. “We’re partners,” Fong says. “At the end of the day, we have to work together. The more transparent and communicative both planners and CVBs/DMOs are with each other, the greater success for all.”

Ward advises planners to “Keep working with us. Keep talking to us and support us in FAMs. Share and be generous with information. If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s how important these partnerships are.”

At Travel Juneau, Logan suggests that planners can also help with recovery efforts “by realizing that we are all dealing with fewer dollars and some of the incentives of the past need to be reviewed or eliminated as we all move toward recovery.”

Russ reminds partners that “Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are open for business, but very much hurting for staff like other destinations around the country. Meeting planners can help CVBs with recovery efforts by contacting the CVB first for all planning needs. CVB sales teams know the state of the destinations and how best to accommodate your group by sourcing proposals, providing planning and marketing resources, and suggesting off-site activities.” Carey says, “We encourage planners to continue communicating with us, letting us know what they need and what they are learning from their clients, so that we can best adapt our offerings, tools and resources to ensure their success. We plan on continuing our proactive outreach, but they are free to contact us at any time.” Also, he says, “Meeting planners can foster responsible tourism among their groups, ensuring they are communicating local health and safety policies, and encouraging travel and events that will help build back tourism economies.”  C&IT

 

Trump wanted to trade «dirty» Puerto Rico with «poor» islanders for Greenland

Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian / Flickr

US President Donald Trump in 2018 voiced the idea of ​​exchanging Puerto Rico for Greenland, reported in Wednesday, the American edition of The Daily Beast, citing former employee of the US Department of Homeland Security Miles Taylor. According to the ex-official, he personally heard such a proposal from the president in August 2018, when US administration officials regularly traveled to Puerto Rico to coordinate hurricane relief efforts. nine0003

«One day, before we left, he (Donald Trump. — Note NEWSru.com ) said that he did not just want to acquire Greenland, but that he wanted to understand if he could sell, exchange Puerto Rico for Greenland, because, according to him, Puerto Rico is dirty, and the people there are poor,» Taylor said.

The interlocutor noted that the president’s proposal outraged him. According to Taylor, Trump was not joking, because he was really hostile towards Puerto Rico. nine0003

Taylor has become a critic of Trump since leaving the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, he supported future Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, Interfax reports.

Puerto Rico — a territory dependent on Washington, which is under the control of the United States, but is not an integral part of them. Although the supreme power here belongs to the US Congress, Puerto Rico has a system of self-government.

Last year, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing two of President Trump’s aides, that the president repeatedly asked them and other members of the administration about the possibility of buying Greenland. According to them, the head of state even asked the White House legal adviser to conduct a legal review of the project, which Trump considered only a major real estate deal. nine0003

Subsequently, Trump himself said that the US acquisition of Greenland from Denmark would be strategically interesting, but this issue is not a priority.

Greenland is the largest island in the world. Legally, it belongs to Denmark, but it has wide autonomy. The Danish krone circulates on the island, but Greenland is not included in the European Union, unlike mainland Denmark. Most of the island is covered in ice. The population of Greenland is about 56 thousand people. nine0003

After World War II, in 1946, the 33rd US President Harry Truman offered Denmark to buy Greenland from Denmark for $100 million, but was refused. In 1876, the US State Department also looked into the purchase of Greenland and Iceland.

Information about the revival of American plans to buy Greenland was received negatively in Copenhagen. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called the idea absurd and pointed out that the island is not for sale. Later, she refused to discuss it at all. In this regard, Trump postponed the scheduled for September 2 — 3, 2019years visit to Denmark.
Other Danish politicians have been even more blunt. The representative of the Danish People’s Party, Søren Jespersen, called the assumption that Denmark would sell 50,000 of its citizens to the United States ridiculous. “If he really is considering such a plan, this is the ultimate proof that he has lost his mind,” Jespersen said of Trump.

MP and leader of the Red-Green Alliance of Denmark Pernille Skipper noted that «this says a lot about Trump, who really believes that you can buy the whole country and the whole people.» She also wrote on the social network that «Trump lives on another planet. » nine0003

As noted earlier, Trump tends to divide the various parts of the world into those that, with their well-being, make him feel good and others worthy of only contempt. In particular, the phrase about «fucking holes» (or «the ass of the world») attributed to the President of the United States caused a scandal. With this wording, Trump immediately awarded several African countries and the island of Haiti when he expressed dissatisfaction with the influx of migrants to the United States from these territories. The UN described Trump’s statement as «shocking and shameful» and «racist». Trump himself later denied these words, calling the statement attributed to him an invention of the Democrats. nine0003

Lozano on building cultural and business relations between New Jersey and Puerto Rico

Select New Jersey CEO elected as NJPR co-chair with Anastos.

The connection between Puerto Rico and New Jersey has never been more evident than during the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in September 2017, a devastating national disaster that is estimated to have swept over 30,000 Puerto Ricans into the state.

They joined a community of approximately 500,000 Puerto Ricans. nine0003

However, New Jersey did not have a formal tie to the US territory. That changed in January 2020 when Governor Phil Murphy established the New Jersey Commission on Puerto Rico.

On Thursday, he announced the first 29 appointments to the commission, co-chaired by Peggy Anastos and José Lozano. (A complete list of nominees is at the bottom of this report.)

Anastos and Lozano will be tasked with promoting cultural and economic ties between the State and the Territory. nine0003

Murphy said that through this commission, the state will help rebuild Puerto Rico’s economy and continue the state’s important relationship with the island. The commission will also promote bilateral trade and investment, work on joint policy issues, and encourage New Jersey companies to invest in Puerto Rico, among other initiatives.

The Commission will report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature within one year of its original organizational meeting and by February 1 of each subsequent year with respect to the previous calendar year’s activities. nine0003

ROI-NJ met with Lozano, CEO of Choose New Jersey to discuss opportunities. The conversation has been edited for space and clarity.

New Jersey ROI: What is the purpose of this commission?

José Lozano: We really want to improve our relationship with an already strong community. It is one of the largest Hispanic communities in New Jersey, but does not have a major commission or representation. I think we saw the depth of the relationship after Maria; this will strengthen these ties, but in terms of cultural and economic development. nine0003

ROI: You have done much to improve the state’s relations with Israel, India and Germany — should it be considered from the same point of view?

JL: This is what we are going to spend on finding out the first year. There are many obvious connections; we have to see how they can best work together.

This is not the same as Israel, Germany or India, where there is a clear understanding of possible bilateral trade. There may be some companies that can do well here, and some companies here that can do better there. We won’t know until we do our homework. nine0003

New Jersey could probably help Puerto Rico more than Puerto Rico can help New Jersey right now. But given that the population is so close-knit, and given the proximity to it, there is a mutual benefit: when Puerto Rico wins, New Jersey wins, and when New Jersey wins, Puerto Rico wins.

Expanding these connections can only help.

ROI: You are assigned to report after the first year. What is your goal on the first day? nine0003

JL: I think in a year we will be able to say: «This is the roadmap, this is what we have learned, this is our strategy.» As for other relationships, I can tell you, «Here’s why and here’s how we do it.»

Right now from Puerto Rico I can tell you why, but I can’t tell you how.

ROI: The good news is that you will have a lot of help to figure this out, starting with Anastos.

JL: Peggy is a legend in the Puerto Rican community. She has advised several governors of Puerto Rico and several governors of New Jersey on relations with Puerto Rico. I’m honored to be able to share a seat with Peggy. nine0003

And we have many other great members of the committee. It’s a really cool, diverse group of people, from lawyers to elected officials, from religious leaders to business owners and chamber leaders. These are the people who are fighting for Puerto Rico. Some will be very focused on the cultural side and some will be much more focused on business development. This is a great mix.

ROI: Last question: For those who don’t know, give us your connection to the island. nine0003

JL: My mother was born in Puerto Rico. My father was born in the Dominican Republic. So, I was first generation born in America, but there are many bloodlines in Puerto Rico. I still have many relatives in Puerto Rico.

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