Friday, November 22, 2019

Puerto Rico receives $33 million for Opportunity Zone development

By on October 1, 2019

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González (Screen capture of gonzalez-colon.house.gov)

Rep. González lauds EDA investment

SAN JUAN — The Economic Development Administration (EDA) is investing $33 million in Puerto Rico to advance economic resiliency and business growth efforts in the wake of the devastating 2017 hurricane season. The grants, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $4.3 million in local funds and are expected to help create or retain 7,635 jobs and generate $188 million in private investment.

The EDA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce that invests in economically distressed communities to create jobs, promote innovation, and accelerate sustainable economic growth.

The funding goes to designated Opportunity Zones, created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to spur economic development by giving tax incentives to investors in economically distressed communities. In June, EDA added Opportunity Zones as an Investment Priority, “which increases the number of catalytic Opportunity Zone-related projects that EDA can fund to fuel greater public investment in these areas,” the agency explained. 

“I have always bet on the private sector as the tool for economic development and I am pleased to be able to join forces with the federal government to help drive it. These allocations, together with private funds driven by federal Opportunity Zones, are an investment in Puerto Rico that we have not seen in a long time,” the resident commissioner said.

The EDA investments are:

  • The University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, will receive $9.9 million to renovate space on the 5th floor of the Molecular Science Research Center (MSRC) to house the Advancing Science and Technology Research and Entrepreneurship (ASTRE) Center. The facility will further workforce development and manufacturing by preventing interruption of services and research for companies. The grant, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $1.99 million in local funds.
  • BLUEtide Puerto Rico, Inc., San Juan, will receive $8.9 million to support the “BLUEtide” Initiative component of Puerto Rico’s comprehensive economic and disaster recovery plan The project includes the establishment of the Marine Business, Innovation and Research Center of the Caribbean, and the Puerto Rico Ocean Technology Complex (PROtech). The grant, to be matched with $166,667 in local funds, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, is expected to help create 5,325 jobs and generate $188 million in private investment.
  • Municipio de Jayuya will receive $8.5 million to make improvements needed to provide resiliency to the tourism park located in the Tierra Alta and Hacienda Parador Gripinas region. The EDA grant, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $1.2 million in local funds and is expected to help create or retain 330 jobs.
  • Pathstone Corporation, Ponce, will receive $3.8 million to support the expansion of the solar industry through microgrid training sites, solar workforce development, industry research, and direct technical assistance. The grant, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $661,914 in local funds , and is expected to help create or retain 200 jobs.
  • The University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez will receive $1.25 million to help boost the productivity of Puerto Rican pharmaceutical companies by providing them with cutting-edge Continuous Manufacturing (CMT) and Process Analytical Technology (PAT) training. The grant, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $183,173 in local funds and is expected to help create 180 jobs and retain 1,500 jobs.
  • Puerto Rico Industries for the Blind Corp., Mayagüez, will receive $640,661 to purchase new highly automated sewing machines that will allow the organization to hire new employees. The grant, to be located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone, will be matched with $137,882 in local funds and is expected to help create 100 jobs.

“This project is funded under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (PL 115-123), in which Congress appropriated to EDA $600 million in additional Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program funds for disaster relief and recovery as a result of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, wildfires, and other calendar year 2017 natural disasters under the Stafford Act,” EDA’s release reads.

“The Trump Administration is fulfilling its promise to help Puerto Rico rebuild after the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017,” said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “These preparedness efforts will support uninterrupted, stable and growing business efforts in Puerto Rico.”

“In 2018, EDA made $587 million in Congressional supplemental appropriations available to eligible grantees in communities impacted by natural disasters in 2017,” added U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Dr. John Fleming. “We are pleased to support bottom-up, local strategies designed to help Puerto Rico recover and build back stronger following Hurricanes Irma and Maria and to do so in Opportunity Zones across the island.”

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