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PRiMEX Presents Business Continuity Findings after Hurricane Maria

By on December 10, 2020

Government Discussing Manufacturing with ‘40 Pharmaceutical Companies’

SAN JUAN — The Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension Inc. (Primex)—a private non-profit created by the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) program, to support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with technical and business consulting services—on Thursday presented findings related to business continuity and resilience practices after 2017’s and other natural disasters that have struck the island since. The data were collected by the Manufacturing Disaster Assistance Program (MDAP).

MDAP Director Ramón Vega (Courtesy)

MDAP Director Ramón Vega told Caribbean Business that the most significant findings include the economic impact on businesses, with some losing close to $100,000 in sales in one year after hurricanes Irma and Maria struck. In manufacturing, the historic storms erased more than $17.76 billion, or 55 percent of the private sector’s losses.

“So that was pretty significant in a one-year period,” Vega said. “And, in terms of how operations were impacted, at the beginning, 86 percent of the businesses we visited were closed temporarily, some of these had fewer than 100 workers. One of the areas that impacted businesses the most was the lack of electricity and communication. These factors affected companies from being able to restart operations.”

He said that, on average, businesses went 100 days without electricity.

“Some of them were working with electrical [backup] generators,” he noted. “Some sectors in the mountains did not have electricity for a year or more. The economic impact on some businesses as they had to maintain operations with the use of generators was significant.”

He explained that businesses that had already implemented continuity plans were able to reopen “faster than those that didn’t.”

“That’s why we helped businesses through a federal proposal in creating their business continuity plans, because it’s an important tool,” Vega stressed. “We have to be prepared, and know what to do before, during and after a natural disaster. And more so in Puerto Rico because it’s in the Caribbean.”

He further noted that in the past three years, through MDAP, more than 1,000 companies have been contacted to learn about their needs, challenges and opportunities in the aftermath of 2017’s devastation. 

“About 87 percent of companies were found to be in the same financial condition or even better than before the hurricane,” Vega said. “We also found that 84 percent of companies that did not have a business continuity plan have not completely recovered from the havoc caused by Hurricane Maria. Electric power outages and voltage fluctuations disrupt operations, detracting from productivity. To be better prepared, the biggest changes have been in acquiring generators and water cisterns.”

Investment Needed

During the virtual conference, Rodrick Miller, the CEO of Invest Puerto Rico—the promotional organization in charge of representing the island at investment conferences, as well as connecting potential investors from abroad with local stakeholders—said manufacturing resilience is essential for Puerto Rico’s economic future. Miller spoke about the Covid-19 pandemic and how the island’s pharmaceutical sector could be manufacturing the vaccine. 

InvestPR CEO Rodrick Miller (Screen capture)

“The short answer is yes,” Miller replied when asked whether he has approached federal or local officials about manufacturing the vaccine on the island. “Our organization, along with the Department of [Economic Development and] Commerce and Discover Puerto Rico [the island’s destination marketing organization] made a trip to Washington, D.C., about two months ago and we met with federal officials to share with them why we thought Puerto Rico should be the hub, of not only the manufacturing, but also the transshipment of the vaccine.”

Miller added that they are working with some 40 pharmaceutical companies on the matter, “and we are also trying to make sure that we secure the transshipment hub long-term.”

“What we are seeing is that Puerto Rico has a number of attractions that position the island well to be a center of distribution but we need more investment,” the CEO said.

Miller added that PRiMEX’s work through the MDAP program has been essential to Puerto Rico’s recovery, as it lays the foundation for the island’s economic revival by empowering the local business ecosystem, especially small and medium businesses.

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