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Puerto Rico Economic Development secretary defends Vantage Knight contract

By on July 26, 2017

SAN JUAN – Manuel Laboy, the secretary of the Puerto Rico’s Economic Development & Commerce Department (DDEC by its Spanish initials) on Wednesday defended the renewal of a contract for more than half a million dollars with lobby frim Vantage Knight, a company that belongs to a close friend Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Democrat Manuel Ortiz.

“As part of its strategic plan for the current fiscal year 2018, the DDEC is working on 12 high-impact measures at the federal level,” Laboy said at the conclusion of a press conference where it was announced that the island will host the Techstars Community Summit in October.

“These are high impact, economic development and economic growth efforts, and to achieve them we need resources who know the federal environment well, that have connections at both the executive [branch] and congressional levels and we believe that Vantage Knight has the expertise…to achieve those 12 goals. We believe that the contract justifies the 12 efforts and at the end of the day, it’s about results,” he said.

The contract, signed between the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) and Vantage Knight, totals $690,000 and will be in force until June 2018.

It is the second time Ortiz wins contracts with Pridco. The first one was of $250,000 for three months.

Economic Development Secretary Manuel Laboy defended the new contract signed with the lobbying firm of Manuel Ortiz, a close friend of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. (Limarys Suárez Torres/CB)

Among the efforts Vantage Knight carrying out for Rosselló’s administration is seeking the elimination of the Electronic Export Information requirement, which Laboy said affects the cost of doing business in Puerto Rico.

“We want to see an amendment to the federal law that has to do with air cabotage and to turn Puerto Rico into an air cargo hub through those amendments. We want Select USA to come to Puerto Rico and hold its summit on the island because it would be of great impact because it is the most important investment forum in the world,” the official said.

Laboy added that Ortiz’s lobbying firm will also seek to have the federal government buy more from local small and midsize businesses in Puerto Rico.

When Caribbean Business asked if he expected that the Vantage Knight contract would allow the agency to fulfill its 12 objectives for economic growth and development this fiscal year, Laboy replied, “The answer is yes.”

“We have an expectation, that it not take longer than the second quarter of 2018, meaning by June 30, 2018, for the Electronic Export Information requirement to be eliminated. We are making arrangements for a senior official from the federal Department of Commerce to come to Puerto Rico as part of a series of investment forums that we will announce soon.”

Another area in which Laboy expects the lobbying of Ortiz and his partner, Olga de Metri, to bear fruit during this fiscal year is in the redevelopment of Roosevelt Road.

De Metri is a Republican and an expert in communications.

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