Puerto Rico Mortgage Bankers Association Positive about 2022

Puerto Rico Mortgage Bankers Association

The Mortgage Bankers Association of Puerto Rico positive about 2022. See video clip about the 12 month projections for the island’s economy by Adam Greenfader, managing partner at AG&T.

 

La Mortgage Bankers Association of Puerto Rico (MBA) es una entidad sin fines de lucro, establecida para mantener y preservar la industria de la banca hipotecaria alentando a sus miembros a promover y llevar a cabo una práctica responsable en la otorgación de préstamos hipotecarios y en ejercer el buen juicio de la aplicación de las regulaciones locales y federales de manera que se mantenga el buen nombre y el prestigio de las instituciones hipotecarias y la credibilidad ante los consumidores.

 

 

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our  track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands. 

 

For more information about Puerto Rico contact us.

 

The Puerto Rico Symposium in Miami With Historic Announcement

 

See All Photos Here

See Agenda and Sponsors

 

The Governor of Puerto Rico Pedro Pierluisi made the historic announcement at The Puerto Rico Symposium in Miami that Puerto Rico was officially out of bankruptcy. The message was well received by over 250 industry leaders from both the public and private sectors.  The event was organized by The Urban Land Institute South East Florida / Caribbean and The Puerto Rico Builders Association.

 

Governor Pedro Pierluisi
Governor Pedro Pierluisi makes historic announcement

 

The Symposium was kicked-off by Scott McLaren, President ULI SE Florida / Caribbean. Scott spoke about the longstanding relationship and collaboration between ULI and the Puerto Rico Builders Association. He highlighted the work on the ULI National Advisory Services Panel on social, economic, and physical resilience in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. https://seflorida.uli.org/toa-baja-puerto-rico-panel/

Scott Maclaren finished his remarks by recognizing  Vanessa de Mari, the new President of the Puerto Rico Builders Association and the first women president in the organization’s 70 year history. The Symposium was dedicated to this historic accomplishment. In attendance were some of Puerto Rico’s top government leaders.  This included the Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico, Manuel Laboy, COR3 Executive Director,  Maretzie Diaz, Deputy Director PR Housing Department CDBG-DR, Natalia I. Zequeira, Commissioner of Financial Institutions, and in attendance, the Secretary of Housing of Puerto Rico, William Rodríguez Rodríguez. The keynote address by the Honorable Pedro Pierluisi, Governor of Puerto Rico’s highlighted the island’s economic accomplishments, the end of Puerto Rico’s population exodus, and the conclusion of the bankruptcy which was officially announced the day of the Symposium.

https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/puerto-rico-is-out-of-bankruptcy-after-a-22-billion-debt-exchange-1.1738142

In the private sector, Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, CEO, Alvarez-Diaz & Villalon discussed some of progress of the island’s rebuilding after the 2017 hurricanes Irma and Maria. The reconstruction of the island was  a constant theme throughout the day with specific examples of over 900 started projects.

The first panel, “Why Puerto Rico: Stories of Success,  was a testament to the resiliency of the development community. Moderated by Andrew Carlson, SVP Country Manager, of JLL the discussion highlighted the historic growth of the island’s hospitality sector with the construction and/or renovation of over 3,000 new room keys from El Conquistador, Grand Reserve (formerly known as Coco Beach), Sheraton, AC , and many others. The panel included Federico Sanchez, President & CEO, Interlink Group.

 

Speakers Panel
Dan Kodsi, Brad Dean, Rafael Rojo, Andrew Carson

 

Dan Kodsi, CEO, Royal Palm Companies, Rafael E. Rojo, President & CEO, VRM Companies. Also in attendance was Brad Dean, CEO, Discover Puerto Rico who highlighted the island’s impressive tourism growth (ADR and occupancy rates) during the Covid 19 pandemic and new expansion of tourism throughout all U.S. feeder markets.

As Puerto Rico seeks to build back its tourism and other industries, the financial sector will invariably play a major role. One of the goals of the Puerto Rico Symposium was to facilitate the conversation of growth in both traditional banking as well as new Fintech, IFEs, and other debt/equity players.  Natalia I. Zequeira, Commissioner of Financial Institutions, explained the ease of regulations and process for new financial institutions as Puerto Rico shares many of the same regulations of the U.S. states on the mainland. Ms. Zequeira also mentioned that International Financial Entities (IFE) can now participate in special opportunity projects.

https://www.investpr.org/key-sectors/finance-and-insurance/

Michael McDonnell, Executive Vice President, First Bank, that recently re-opened its  construction division, was bullish on the island’s economic prospects and announced that the Puerto Rico will achieve positive economic growth (GDP) this year– something it has not done in over a decade.  Banesco USA announced the U.S. Department of the Treasury, will invest more than $8.7 billion through ECIP in institutions across the country – Banesco USA is the only bank recipient located in Florida or Puerto Rico.

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/banesco-usa-approved-to-receive-237-5-million-investment-from-the-us-treasurys-emergency-capital-investment-program-301445832.html

Over the last few years, we have all hear about the 80 billion dollars of relief aid that has been allocated to Puerto Rico and is coming. In the “Myth versus Reality panel: Federal Funding Opportunities on The Island,” moderator Ella Woger Nieves of Invest Puerto Rico helped lift-up the proverbial transparency veil. Manuel Laboy, the COR3 Executive Director spoke with detailed facts of the funding by agency with FEMA authorizing 5 billion for temporary work, 21 Billion for 9,000 permanent projects and 800 that are currently under construction today. He also discussed the next wave of over 900 projects that are currently under engineering and design.  Much of this work will be channeled through CDBG-DR and the PR Housing Department. Maretzie Diaz, the Deputy Director PR Housing Department, explained the process for companies wanting to participate in the island’s rebuilding of housing and infrastructure. Mahdu Beriwal, Owner/founder of EIM provided first-hand knowledge of the rebuilding work in Puerto Rico.

 

Adam Greenfader, Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, Pamela Pautenade, Vanessa de Mari, Alfredo Martinez, Emilion Colon

 

Keynote Speaker Pamela Pautenade, Ex. Deputy Secretary of HUD, was also on hand to share her experiences about the collaboration with the Puerto Rico Builders Association during the 2017 hurricanes crisis. In a moving conversation with Ricardo Alvarez-Diaz, Mrs. Pautenade explained the dedication of the island’s public and private sectors and dispelled any rumors about misuse of relief funds.

 

Keynote Lunch Address
Andrew Farkas, Adam Greenfader

 

Puerto Rico, like much of the Caribbean is in the process of bouncing back from the Covid 19 pandemic.  Adam Greenfader, who chairs the ULI Caribbean Council had a high level sit down conversation with keynote Speaker Andrew Farkas, CEO Island Capital Group. The conversation was focused on social equity and specifically what  role the financial sector has in supporting the region with a particular focus on sustainability, ESG, and helping economic migrants return back to their island homes.

In the last few years Puerto Rico has become known as blockchain capital of the world. While thousands of tech savvy individuals have moved to the island to take advantage of federal tax incentives they have inadvertently created a new economic driver for the Puerto Rico.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-12-11/crypto-rich-are-moving-to-puerto-rico-world-s-new-luxury-tax-haven

 

In our “Fintech & Financial Innovation panel in Puerto Rico, Moderator Nathan Whigham, Founder & President, EN Capital discussed the growth of this huge industry. Rodrick Miller, CEO, Invest Puerto Rico, explained what his group is doing to change the paradigm in Puerto Rico from selling tax incentives to focusing on the island’s quality of labor, education system, and proficiency in bio science and other innovations. Stephen Inglis, CEO, Importal explained his new portal to monetize tax credits and  Yael Tamar, CEO & Co-founder, SolidBlock explained how her company is integrating real estate and blockchain.

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/invest-puerto-rico-elevates-the-islands-role-as-a-global-bioscience-rd-and-manufacturing-hub-attracting-two-major-life-critical-investments-228m-in-new-activity-301221471.html

After a marathon day of conversation it was amazing to see the room still full for our last panel “Growth Industries and Tax Incentives” moderated by Carla Campos and an all-star team including  Jorge Ruiz Montilla, McConnel Valdez,  Francisco Luis, of Kevane Grant Thornton and Rogelio “Roy” Carrasquillo, of the Carrasquillo Law Group. In this panel, specific programs like the Tourism Tax Incentive were explained in detail and there was robust conversation regarding how these incentives have created new jobs in manufacturing, life sciences, construction, and agro-science.

 

On behalf of all of us at the Puerto Rico Builders Association and The Urban Land Institute SE Florida/ Caribbean, thank you to all of the people and sponsors that made The Puerto Rico Symposium possible. We are all hopeful that together both the public and private sector can create long lasting sustainable economic growth.

 

 

For more information about investing in Puerto Rico visit our web site or contact us.

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our  track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands.

 

18 Billion For The Next Great Construction Boom

San Juan, Puerto Rico. Last week The Puerto Rico Builders Association held its 70th year conference in San Juan Puerto Rico. The historic event was inaugurated with a conversation on Financing the Next Great Economic Construction Boom.  The panel included Michael McDonald, Executive Vice President and Group Director at Firstbank, Luis Alemañy President and CEO at the Economic Development Bank of Puerto Rico, and Eric Delgado Business Banking Relationship Manager at Acrecent Financial Corporation and Adam Greenfader, Managing Partner at AG&T. It was clear from the conference panelists, that after more than fifteen years of stagnate growth, Puerto Rico appears ready to build back better. Billions of dollars of FEMA and CDBG-DR funds are being allocated in what will be the largest government funding program in US history.  While much of the Federal funds will be used to subsidize projects, the group was in agreement that there is a huge need for private investment and capital to bridge the financing gapMichael McDonald, Executive Vice President and Group Director at Firstbank, made the historic announcement that the bank is opening up its construction division. Several members from the newly formed team were present in the packed room including Carlos Navarro and Mei Li Tsai Rivera. “There is no better indicator of an economy that is ready to grow that when a bank reopens its construction division”, quoted Alfredo Martínez-Álvarez, Jr., Chairman of the Puerto Rico Builders Association. Equally promising, Luis Alemañy President and CEO at the Economic Development Bank of Puerto Rico, was asked about the much awaited CDBG-DR funding. Mr. Alemañy explained that the Economic Development Bank of Puerto Rico has already started allocating over $225 Million dollars to small entrepreneurs. The group was especially receptive to the fact that the grants are being disbursed in $50,000 tranches and does not require repayment. Since 2008, Puerto Rico has gone from twelve financial institutions to less than four. Eric Delgado Business Banking Relationship Manager at Acrecent Financial Corporation, sees a new role for niche lenders filling that gap in Puerto Rico.  He specifically discussed how Acrecent can play a role in funding new construction projects. “We are able to get to funding much faster than traditional banks and also have the capacity for higher loan to coast ratios.  Both Firstbank and Acrecent mentioned that capital is seeking anywhere from 25%-35% of project equity. “As Puerto Rico gets ready to build thousands of much needed homes, critical infrastructure and other key projects, it will be up to both private and public institutions to step up and provide the much needed capital and leadership”, quoted Adam Greenfader of AG&T.  All of the panelist were in agreement that the island in the next few years is ready for strong growth. They specifically mentioned that in addition to the more than 8 billion dollars of Federal Grants, Puerto Rico has one of the most robust tax incentives and credit programs in the world. The hospitality incentive with a 40% tax credit was specifically highlighted as a very strong component of any capital stack today. Helping to plan a better future for the island, The Puerto Rico Builders Association will be holding its annual conference on September 20 and 21, 2022.  Speaking and sponsorship opportunities are available and you may contact AG&T at contact@agandt.com.   AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our  track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands.  

Adam Greenfader Shares New Opportunities in Puerto Rico

Adam Greenfader

Adam Greenfader, Managing partner of AG&T (7 minute video) speaks on new opportunities in Puerto Rico. Learning this video about the the island’s history and how you can learn from the past to generate real value and  long term economic growth. The video includes new information about tax incentives, the tourism tax incentive, Act 20/22, and other tax credits for real estate development. Contact us for more information and to learn about Why Puerto Rico Now

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands.

 

Helping Puerto Rico since the 1950’s

Puerto Rico 1950's

70 years ago, when the Puerto Rico Builders Association was formed, the United States was on the brink of entering the World War II. December 7, 1941, would be considered a day that would “live in infamy”. Thousands of Puerto Ricans as American citizens fought in the War and would return home as victors to an island on the precipice of great economic growth.  Thanks in large part to Operation Bootstrap, o “Manos a La Obra”, the Puerto Rico Builder’s Association has played a vital role in shaping the island’s long term economic development. The Puerto Rico Builders Association (formerly known as the Homebuilders Association) was formed in a critical period of time when the island was undergoing a massive transformation from an agricultural society into a leading manufacturing hub.

Puerto Rico would see historic growth for more than three decades and the Puerto Rico Builders Association would play a leading role in shaping the island’s zoning regulations, environmental protections, financing, and building codes (often referred to as a Miami’s building code on steroids).  Puerto Rico benefited greatly from these concerted efforts by the Puerto Rico Builder Association with one of the highest homeownership rates in the Western world at 68%. Puerto Rico is also the second largest public housing jurisdiction in the United States second only to New York City.

In 2015, The Puerto Rico Builders Association, under the leadership of then PR Builders president, Ricardo Alvarez Diaz Villalon joined forces with the Urban Land Institute Southeast Florida/Caribbean District Council. ULI founded around the same time as the PR Builders Association, is one of the oldest and largest networks of real estate and land use experts in the world. ULI’s mission is to shape the future of the building industry and create thriving and sustainable communities around the globe. Shortly thereafter, Puerto Rico was devastated with two back-to-back category five hurricanes.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria destroyed most of the island’s electrical infrastructure and informal housing stock at a cost estimated over 100 billion dollars. ULI together with the Puerto Rico Builders Association created a task force to study the effects of the storms and how to build back better. Under then ULI president Greg West, the Puerto Rico Builders Association and ULI convened national panel of experts and created a specific action plan for the municipality of Toa  Baja.

The Puerto Rico Builders Association BoardThe Puerto Rico Builders Association and ULI have since held multiple meetings and conference throughout the years in both Puerto Rico and Miami to explore new areas of synergy and improvements to the island’s build environment. ULI’s current president, Scott McLaren was recently quoted, “we strongly value our long standing partnership with your organization and admire the leaders who go above and beyond, especially when faced with such tremendous obstacles.”

Come celebrate 70 with the Puerto Rico Builders Association Puerto Rico on October 27-29 in San Juan. https://constructorespr.com/convencion-2021/

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our  track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands.

 

 

Puerto Rico’s hotel Industry takes centerstage this week in Miami.

Puerto Rico takes centerstage at the Caribbean Hospitality Investment Summit (CHRIS) held this week at the Hardrock Hotel in Miami.

El Convento Hotel

The Puerto Rico Builders Association, one of the sponsors of the CHRIS event, was honored to congratulate Hugh Andrews, CEO, IHE as he received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was presented by Vanessa Ledesma Acting CEO and Director at Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association.  Vanessa, herself a great friend and native of Puerto Rico, discussed with Hugh Andrews his vast accomplishments that include the development of such Icon hotel properties as the Conquistador Hotel, El Convento, Las Casitas, and Vanderbilt Hotel.

The Vanderbilt Hotel

STR in its annual report, listed Puerto Rico’s year over year recovery from 2019 as one of the Caribbean’s  top destinations. This includes maintaining strong airlift throughout the pandemic, maintaining high ADRs, and an impressive 82% Occupancy rate. The recently delivered Aloft San Juan hotel was named as top CHRIS hospitality development of 2021.  Adam Greenfader, Managing partner of AG&T and Florida Liaison Chair of the Puerto Rican Builders Association,  spoke on the success of the P3 program in Puerto Rico. He mentioned in the Public-Private Collaboration panel that the island will be soliciting a P3 bid for the management of the 9 remaining local and national airports.

Kenny Blatt, Principal/Managing Partner of CPG Real Estate, spoke extensively on Puerto Rico’s hospitality industry. He discussed the island’s capacity to greatly expand its hospitality and tourism sectors.  Blatt’s was enthusiastic about the transformation at Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve and its evolution since 1958.   His key takeaways on Dorado Beach’s success include working with local partners as a critical best practice. Blatt praised the Stubbe family and PRISA group repeatedly as “ the greatest developers any resort can ever have.”

El Conquistador Hotel

The Puerto Rico Builders Association will be celebrating its 70 year anniversary at its upcoming conference on October 27-28, 2021. For more information visit https://constructorespr.com

Could this be the year for Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rican Flag
Adam Greenfader, Managing Partner, AG&T

It had been almost 12 months since my last visit to Puerto Rico. Thanks to the COVID lockdown expectations were low. The last time I visited, more than 2 years after hurricanes Irma and Maria, the devastation was still overwhelming.  Streets were lined with garbage, electrical lines in disrepair, and thousands of homes had roofs covered in blue tarps. This combined with more than ten years of economic recession made has made Puerto Rico extremely pessimistic. As I landed in Luis Munoz Marin Airport, I was thinking,  “Would the ensuing earthquakes and COVID pandemic ravage the economy even more…”

I travelled the entire island from coast to coast –  100 x 35 miles, in a two week period. I drove from San Juan to Aguadilla, Mayaguez, Ponce, Humacao, Fajardo, and Ocean Park.  The roads were in good condition, the street lights working, and many buildings newly painted.  Notwithstanding the COVID crisis, the economy was bustling.  Most palpable was the positive attitude and feeling of the people. I spoke with many colleagues and friends and was told that much of the hurricane insurance had circulated through the economy.  The 8-12 billion in Federal relief from CDBG-DR is expected by early 2021.  Homemade signs seeking construction workers can be seen throughout the island that read, “Se Solicita Carpinteros y Albanilles”.

 

While the tourists were clearly absent ‘en mass’, a handful of new boutique hotels, especially in San Juan, have been recently delivered between 2019-2020. Much of this new hotel activity is due in part to the Tourism Tax Incentive. The tax incentive provides up to 40% of the total project’s cost back to sponsors…incredibly, some of it can be used for funding as part of the initial capital stack.  While this is not common anywhere in the world, Puerto Rico’s is not a typical Caribbean destination. The total economic activity (GDP) in Puerto Rico is less than 7% for all tourism related activities.  This includes, hotels, trades, conventions, excursions, etc..   This is an astonishing low number for an island that is surrounded by warm water, beautiful beaches, and lush landscapes. Read more about why Puerto Rico is like this at: https://www.agandt.com/wordpress/contact-why-puerto-rico-now/

These tax incentives combined with a team of dedicated individuals in the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) –  Discover Puerto Rico and other Public Private Partnerships (Invest Puerto Rico) is helping to make Puerto Rico a thriving tourism destination. The island currently boats some of the top hotels in the Caribbean with ADR’s over $1,500 per night.  Much of this demand is generated by the Act 20/22 (now Act 60).  For the last five years, hundreds of high net worth US individuals have moved to Puerto Rico to take advantage of zero Federal capital gains.  Act 60 has resulted in over 500 families and hundreds of new business moving to Puerto Rico.  There seems to be no end in sight for these new Americans living in Puerto Rico.  

Dorado Beach

This week Puerto Rico also inaugurated for the first time in over 20 years, the same political party. The PNP or US Statehood party won the election with a mandate for political stability, reduced corruption, and closer ties with the United States. While the island’s economic crisis is far from over, the COVID pandemic has put Puerto Rico back in the spotlight for its manufacturing proficiency. The island of Puerto Rico is one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical destinations – producing more than the top 5 US States combined. As thousands of jobs come back to the USA-Puerto Rico, invariably many will end up where the cost of labor is 15% less expensive, and there is a 60 year culture of robust manufacturing.

 
Grand Reserve
Grand Reserve

So is this the year for Puerto Rico?  Strong yes if you are involved with affordable housing, luxury resorts, alternative energy and critical manufacturing.

While we at AG&T do not have the proverbial ‘crystal ball’ on the island’s long term economic growth, things feel like they are on the right track and we will have more clarity with the resolution to the island’s bond crisis, the electrical authority privatization (AEE), and the completion of the responsibilities of The Fiscal Oversight and Managemnt Board for Puerto Rico. 

Critical Manufacturing and Puerto Rico USA

Critical Manufacturing Puerto Rico

¨.

The panelists :

 

The ULI Webinar has an incredible array of information crammed into 90 minutes and it gives a great snapshot for the many initiatives being introduced and planned to help the Puerto Rican economy and create more quality jobs. If I had to some it up in three words, Mo is back. Mo of course being momentum.

 Each of the speakers brought a different perspective. Congresswoman Gonzalez Colon noted her primary mission is the reconstruction of the Island and to shephard the many supporting bills recently introduced in the US Congress. Former Governor Luis Fortuno brought an informed Wash DC think tank perspective, Adam Greenfader is one of Puerto Rico´s most passionate advocates, Andy Carlson of JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle) brings experienced commercial  insights from the world´s second largest public brokerage firm, Dr Deusch stated his case for the reasons he brought his Swiss/German manufacturing business to Puerto Rico because of a need for precision and reliability, while Noel Zamot has a finger on the ethical pulse of developing new business in Puerto Rico.

The conversations were upbeat and positive. For instance, Congresswoman Colon made a presentation on MMEDS which was introduced last month to Congress under the bill H.R. 7527. This bill provides tax incentives and tax credits for companies creating manufacturing plants and jobs in economically distressed areas in the US and its territories. The criteria for distressed is even stricter than the recent Opportunity Zone legislation passed in late 2017. When the Congresswoman showed the MMEDS qualifying maps there were smaller areas in very non desirable locations in the US whereas Puerto Rico literally had a much larger proportional area in some desirable locations. And she stated very clearly that MMEDS is one of the very few legislative items that is drawing bi-partisan support from both sides of the aisle.

The entire panel then weighed in on the competitive advantages that Puerto Rico has when competing with the mainland U.S. including much lower labor costs by as much as 60% lower in some cases, an experienced manufacturing labor force going back 100 years, the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez which is a top 10% engineering school for the entire U.S. and which is very much geared to provide the engineering and chemistry talent to support Puerto Rico´s manufacturing base. That even today five of the top ten selling drugs internationally are produced in Puerto Rico and 12 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies have plants in Puerto Rico.

Luis Fortuno noted that Puerto Rico had more than $40 billion USD in pharmaceutical exports in 2019 but has the capacity to increase this substantially. The panel noted that some closed down plants are almost in turnkey conditions should manufacturers wish to return or expand capacity. It would not take much. Maybe a recession of the Jones Act, or at least an exemption for an extended period of time, might be the necessary catalyst. There are some interesting new developments on this front as was evidenced last week by Hawaii noting that 85% of their informed populace is all for rescinding the Jones Act as it costs that Island 1.2 billion USD in additional transportation and cost of goods fees.

Progress is being made on seeking some type of exemption under the taxing provisions of GILTI as it adds a 10%+ tax on profits for CFCs (controlled foreign corporations) which unfortunately applies to the US territories since the do not fall under the IRC (Internal Revenue Code). On May 1, 2020, Congresswoman Stacey E. Plasket, representing the US Virgin Islands, filed Bill HR 6648 – the Territorial Economic Recovery Act, that if becomes law, it will exclude our territories from much or all of the GILTI taxation, under certain provisions.

On April 3, 2020, Congresswoman Jennifer González, resident Commissioner for Puerto Rico, introduced Bill HR 6643, the Securing National Supply Chain Act of 2020, to provide various tax credits to Economically Distressed Zones, including a tax credit on the amount of wages paid by an employer to employees in such a zone. The proposal has some overlap with HR 7527 noted above.

President Trump’s Special Representative for Puerto Rico’s Disaster Recovery, Rear Admiral Peter Brown, lead two delegations to Puerto Rico in August 2020, the last visit being last week. I am told the trip was very successful as a big priority was to visit and understand the many advantages of pharmaceutical manufacturing in Puerto Rico. 

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CDBG-DR and Critical Manufacturing

PUERTO RICO  DISASTER RECOVERY ACTION PLAN

The Action Plan

The first Action Plan outlined the uses for the approximately $1.5 billion in CDBG-DR made available by Congress on February 1, 2018. Subsequent amendments encompassed in this iteration of the Action Plan have further allocated an additional $8.2 billion anticipated in a second allocation for the Island, and now include the additional $277 million in unmet infrastructure need. While the recovery funds are clearly being allocated to repair billions of dollars in damages created by the recent hurricanes, repair without true economic recovery will ultimately continue a long standing dependence on federal payments.  While the plan addresses many of the needs of Puerto Rico, it fails to address how Puerto Rico can help make America safe again in light of the recent and devasting Covid-19 pandemic. The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed an urgent need to secure medical and pharmaceutical supplies manufactured in the United States and avoid their shortage and dependence on foreign jurisdictions.  For decades, Puerto Rico provided the United States (and the world) with a reliable and cost efficient source of critical manufacturing. It is time to bring critical manufacturing back home.

US Manufacturing

Puerto Rico has been a historical hub for US manufacturing of pharmaceutical goods for more than 50 years. Total exports for Puerto Rico amounted to $20.5 billion in 2019. That was a 13.3‐percent increase from 2018 when exports totaled $18.1 billion. Puerto Rico is home to major US and European companies such as Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Baxter, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson to name a few. Puerto Rico leads all states in the field of pharmaceutical manufacturing  and trade dollar value in 2019 was higher than both California and Indiana combined. Puerto Rico led U.S. exports of pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing in 2019, accounting for 24.6% of total U.S. exports.

In Puerto Rico, there are 49 pharmaceutical plants,  70 for medical devices. Seven out of the 10 top-selling medications are currently being manufactured in Puerto Rico.  Both sectors make up 33% of gross domestic product, which create 142,500 direct and indirect jobs, with an average salary of $42,000. Thousands of small and medium-sized companies supply goods and services to this industry.

COVID 19

A rapid ramp-up of hundreds of millions of units will likely be needed in the short term, which will require three key elements — readily available facilities, a quickly scalable skilled workforce, and rapid access to key materials.  Puerto Rico is uniquely positioned in all three elements. First, the ten year decline in manufacturing volume on the Island has left idle or seriously underutilized large-scale, state of- the-art facilities. There are several large-scale API (active product ingredient sites/chemical) sites mostly idle and available to accommodate high volume production. Similarly, on the finished product side, there are also a handful of largely underutilized drug product sites (available to produce capsules, tablets, etc.), as well as the excess capacity of many other manufacturing sites that typically operate with a 25-40% capacity cushion.

Puerto Rico can make quick gains in substituting a considerable amount of the production lines currently hosted internationally.  Although close to 30,000 people are currently employed by the industry, this number is less than 50% of the peak employment experienced just over a decade ago.

The Reduction of  Manufacturing

The United States – Puerto Rico’s dominance in critical manufacturing was significantly reduced by a confluence of globalization and other political-economic events in the 1990’s.  This also included one self-induced action, the elimination of US Federal Section 936 tax incentives.  The elimination of Section 936, was sadly intended to bring manufacturing back to the mainland,  but actually sent our critical industries to China, Mexico, Ireland.  The expiration of 936 prompted the number of manufacturing jobs to fall in Puerto Rico by almost half and is usually cited as one of the principal triggers of Puerto Rico’s long economy descent.

In  2017, Puerto Rico effectively filed the largest-ever federal bankruptcy proceeding by a local government with $74 billion in public debt.  To make matters worse, the passage of the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made has made it more expensive for U.S. corporations to operate in Puerto Rico.  The GILTI & BEAT provisions in particularly has led to a further deterioration of the island’s  pharmaceutical and medical industry, whose business model is heavily-dependent on intellectual property.

Current legislation

The US dependence on foreign manufacturing has recently caused direct action by Congress to secure the lines of medical and pharmaceutical supplies manufactured in the United States and avoid their shortage and dependence on foreign jurisdictions. Two such bipartisan resolutions are HR 6443 by Jennifer Gonzalez of Puerto Rico and HR 6448 by Stacey Plasket of the US Virgin Islands.

Economic Recovery Through Critical Manufacturing

As legislation is passed to make America safer, CDBG-DR can play a vital role in expediting this very important task. One of the goals of the CDBG-DR Economic Recovery program is to create an economic environment where residents will want to come back to the Island. By improving economic conditions and increasing the number of available jobs, Puerto Rico can minimize the displacement of Puerto Rican residents who have out-migrated and are at risk of permanent resettlement off the Island.

Conclusion

The time to secure America’s critical manufacturing is now. Puerto Rico has been a leader in this sector for the last 50+ years and is ideally suited to lead the way. While CDBR-DR is primarily aimed at making the island whole again, especially in housing and electrical infrastructure, the Covid19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to create both safety for Americans and a solid economy for the island of Puerto Rico.

Travel and Tourism and the COVID19 Pandemic

Headshot of Brad Dean

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought worldwide tourism to a standstill. In this ULI Caribbean Conversation, we speak with Brad Dean, CEO of Puerto Rico’s Destination Marketing Organization (DMO).  Brad shares some insights about what some of the top private and public minds in the industry are thinking, planning, and prepping for travel 2.0.

” I think this down time gives the travel and tourism industry our George Bailey moment. “We have all seen that without travel it’s pretty ugly….there is a lot greater value to travel than most of us ever realized..travel lifts spirits, it connects people, it leads to progress, exclaimed Brad Dean.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

AG&T is a real estate development and consulting company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Miami, Florida. Our  track record spans over 55 real estate development projects in Puerto Rico, Sint Maarten, Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Dominican Republic, and various other Caribbean islands.