AGC-Puerto Rico Sets Eyes on Infrastructure
By Philipe Schoene Roura and Eva Lloréns Vélez
WASHINGTON – The Associated General Contractors Puerto Rico (AGC-PR) Chapter kicked off its mid-year meeting with remarks by AGC-PR President Francisco Díaz Massó who touted the importance of promoting the island as an investment destination in the area of infrastructure.
His remarks were a preamble to a roster of speakers who will touch on topics that run the gamut from restructuring to infrastructure development.
The two-day convention comes after the federal Financial Oversight & Management Board (FOMB) included in Puerto Rico’s fiscal plan about $4.5 billion that will be spent on vital infrastructure projects from 2017 to 2019.
It also comes as the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency & Financial Advisory Authority (Fafaa) is on the verge of appointing the Omnibus Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership Adviser, whose job description entails assessing the overall public-private partnership (P3) management on the island. At the same time, President Donald Trump is expected to submit a $1 trillion infrastructure development bill, whose source of funding remains unclear.
Díaz Massó said he expects to achieve three things. The first is to determine the state of Trump’s infrastructure plan from the organization’s leading officers. The group has lobbyists in Washington supporting the $1 trillion plan.
However, he said AGC of America has concerns about how the plan will be financed. Members of Congress reportedly do not want taxes to be raised to pay for the projects. The information is expected to be provided by AGC of America CEO Stephen E. Sandherr.
Díaz Massó also expects to obtain information from Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and from Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administrator Carlos Mercader on their strategy to optimize federal funds for Puerto Rico.
Earlier this year, the organization unveiled a list of infrastructure projects pending for investors to make them a reality.
“The interest is there. I have had investors seeking meetings with me but we have to yield trust,” he said. “If Puerto Rico achieves certainty in the processes, the [debt] restructuring and fulfills contracts, we will get it.”
The AGC event will also feature Kevin Orr, a partner at Jones Day who was the emergency manager in Detroit during its fiscal crisis when it filed for bankruptcy; FOMB Chairman José Carrión III; and former Gov. Luis Fortuño, who will talk about P3 projects. Local AGC officials could not comment on the proposed omnibus infrastructure for P3s because they first learned about it through Caribbean Business. Fortuño is slated to talk about yielding certainty through P3s.
During Orr’s tenure, he oversaw the largest and most complicated municipal bankruptcy proceeding in U.S. history. As a result of that proceeding, the city successfully restructured $18 billion in debt; reduced overall debt by $7 billion; developed and implemented a multiyear, $1.7 billion revitalization plan for city services and operations; streamlined key city operations; helped improve public safety; put the city’s art in a perpetual public trust; and avoided drastic cuts to pension and related retiree benefits.
The government expects to bring to reality more than 20 projects over the next few years through P3 initiatives, including a resource recovery plant and the natural gas plant in Aguirre.
One of the most important topics that will be discussed is Title V of the federal Promesa law, which details approving critical infrastructure projects through the revitalization coordinator. However, as of presstime, that coordinator, Aaron Bielenberg, had yet to confirm he would attend the activity.
Caribbean Business Executive Editor Philipe Schoene Roura was moderating a panel titled, “Puerto Rico: The Land of Opportunities,” whose panelists will be EagleRock Capital Management CEO Nader Tavakoli; Andrew Vecera, counsel to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Energy & Mineral Resources; and Jeff Shoaf, senior executive director of Government Relations for AGC of America.
“AGC-P.R. sees Puerto Rico as the land of opportunities. This is the moment,” Díaz Massó said.