Survey: Nearly 25% of Puerto Rico businesses still recovering from 2017 hurricanes

Numerous gas stations in Puerto Rico sustained significant structural damage from Hurricane María. September 2017 (CB photo)

Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension to hold workshops on disaster preparedness, business continuity plans

SAN JUAN — Nearly 25% of Puerto Rico’s businesses are still trying to recover from hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, a survey by the Manufacturing Disaster Assitance Program (MDAP) of the Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension (PRiMEX) shows.

For that reason, MDAP Director Ramón Vega said several workshops will be held around the island to help small and midsize businesses adopt resiliency and business continuity plans.

PRiMEX is a nonprofit affiliated with the National Institute of Standards and Technology / Manufacturing Extension Partnership Network of the U.S. Commerce Department.

Its first workshop will be held Friday, June 7, at the Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. The second will take place June 14 at the Caguas mayor’s office. The activity will run from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Both events are free of charge.

PRiMex’s Francisco García told Caribbean Business that few businesses have an adequate business continuity plan to deal with a natural disaster nor have taken all of the needed precautions to face a prolonged blackout.

He noted that when assessing whether these businesses have a sufficient number of suppliers, staff, materials or equipment, they still fail to cover all possible gaps that can interrupt their operations.

“What I have seen is that businesses are aware and they have a power outage plan but when you ask if they have spare parts or if they have enough materials to operate around the clock, they do not know what to answer,” García said.

The presentations around the island will also include other topics such as cybersecurity and presentations titled “Importance and Reason to Create a Business Continuity Plan,” and “Emergency and Disaster Management.”

“If we strengthen companies, we protect jobs and promote permanence in our economy. It is imperative that companies have a good chain of suppliers, alternatives in energy sources, protect their information and business intelligence, and know government updates regarding emergency plans,” said Vega, who is also a management consultant at PRiMEX.

For his part, the commissioner of the government’s Emergency Management Bureau, Carlos Acevedo, said the government has also updated its emergency plans and urged businesses to do the same.

“It is important that each citizen prepare individually and that the companies work on their emergency plans, as well as the Continuity of Operations Plan to guarantee a more diligent response after an emergency,” he said.

For PRiMex’s survey, conducted from Oct. 15 to May 10, 529 companies responded, while 42 declined to answer and 29 had closed. Additional work is being carried out on the second phase of the project, which is underway.

Of the 529 companies, 463 are manufacturers, 61 are from the service sector and five are in agriculture.

“We can say that some manufacturing sectors related…such as the metals sector are experiencing an increase in their demand of goods, which is shown through some statistics collected with the survey: 409 (77.3%) of the 529 assessed companies indicated having positive or neutral financial conditions more than one year after hurricanes Irma & Maria. Another manufacturing sector that is also showing positive financial conditions is food companies,” according to the survey.

However the nearly 25% of companies still struggling to recover from the hurricanes, shows there are major challenges that need to be overcome such as the need for capital to refurbish structures.

Companies reporting financial losses spent an average of 112 days without electric power service, compared to an average of 88 days for those reporting profits or breaking even, 24-day difference. This finding reveals the importance of restructuring the infrastructure of Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority (Prepa) together with a Disaster Recovery Plan that addresses the different sectors of the island.

Small companies lack the capital to invest in renewable energy sources and are dependent on Prepa for their daily operations, leaving them in a precarious position in the event of another disaster in the near future.

Only 145 companies of the companies assessed had some type of business continuity plan in place. Of these, 121 reported positive or the same financial condition as before the hurricanes.

These companies said that having a continuity plan helped their preparedness, which resulted in better financial results.

“If we can highlight only one important lesson, it will be that companies need to prepare, and having a business continuity plan will contribute strongly in their recovery after a natural disaster,” the report reads.

Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension launches food safety program


Offers food safety plan free of charge for a limited time; workshop on April 5

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension (Primex) is offerng to create food security plans for up to 100 food-and-beverage manufacturing, processing, packaging, transportation or storage companies.

The nonprofit–which was organized as an initiative of the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Co. (Pridco) and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a program under the National Institute of Standards and Technology–has been providing services to improve business processes for about 25 years.

The purpose of its new program is to ensure a safer food supply chain by changing the focus from reacting to a contamination incident to proactive prevention.

“This is not a voluntary certification, but a mandatory legal requirement. The causes of food poisoning come from foodborne diseases; more than 250 diseases have been identified. In addition, most of them are infections produced by a variety of bacteria, viruses and parasites. The most vulnerable populations are children, older adults, pregnant women as well as people with weak immune systems. That is why it is necessary and urgent that companies have a food safety plan to ensure a hazard-free healthy consumption,” the director of PRiMEX’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) program, Julio Lugo, said in a release.

Manufacturing represents 24% of the companies registered on the island, of which the majority employ fewer than 20 people, for a combined estimate of 10,000 workers, according to Primex, which believes the program’s impact on the economy could range from the possibility of substituting imports to the opportunity to increase exports, generating revenue locally.

“It is a fundamental requirement that companies develop a written plan for food safety with emphasis on preventive measures for food risks developed by a Preventive Controls Qualified individual (PCQ1). These resources are provided by PRiMEX at this time, free of charge and for a limited time. This plan has an approximate market cost of $3,000 to $6,000,” Lugo said.

The engineer said a food safety plan includes risk analysis, preventive controls, monitoring activities, corrective actions, verifications and a recall program.

“At any time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can enter a business and inspect processes, and if the company does not comply with the aforementioned law it can bring consequences, from fines, seizure of inventory, up to registry suspension, which is equivalent to closing operations,” Lugo warned.

To provide guidance to entrepreneurs about the importance of having a food safety plan, PRiMEX will hold an event in Mayagüez on April 5, at the Women’s Business Center on 828 Hostos Ave., Villa Capitán II Building, Suite 204. The event will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To participate, interested parties must register their company and complete a questionnaire.

Among the topics to be discussed are the modernization law and its Toyota Kata requirements, a methodology to gradually achieve goals. In addition, the development of nutritional labels and experimenting with formulas, among other topics will be on the agenda. The latter will be presented by Dr. Fernando Pérez, director of the Food Science and Technology Graduate Program of the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez Campus.

For more information about the program or to attend the April 5 workshop, contact Maritcelí Alvarado at 787-756-0505

Primex Teaches Business How to Successfully Export

Primex Teaches Business How to Successfully Export

SAN JUAN – Many businessowners and manufacturers would like to export their products off-island but sometimes do not know whether their products will be accepted or satisfy global market trends.

To fill in this knowledge gap, the Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension Inc. (Primex) is launching a series of activities later this month and in March to support the manufacturing sector by educating about the latest trends in export, intellectual property, business plans, etiquette and corporate communication. Created 23 years ago, Primex is a nonprofit organization affiliated with the National Institute of Standards & Technology/Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST/MEP) of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Primex will hold an export conference Feb. 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in Sony Hall of Iniciativa Tecnológica Centro Oriental Inc. (Inteco) in Caguas. On the following day, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., a conference will be held on intellectual property and copyright in manufacturing at Primex’s facilities in San Juan’s Hato Rey district. On March 1, the organization is sponsoring a conference on Alternate Telecommunications & Cybersecurity at Inteco’s Sony Hall in Caguas.

Astrid Vélez, strategist, motivational speaker & certified coach with more than 20 years of experience operating in international markets, will speak about the trends that help businessowners satisfy the needs of a specific market. She said global trends are in favor of products that satisfy climatological change, meet the need for health changes or are artisanal or fresh. “We have to find what the perfect match is,” she said.

For instance, she noted that after hurricanes Irma and Maria, the market for natural healthcare products went up as individuals searched for treatments of their ailments because of medication shortages. The climate change phenomenon has also created a market for products that can help individuals survive earthquakes. The global problem with cyberattacks has created a market for products that can help businesses or individuals protect their information and computers.

“There is a market for everything. The important thing is to export intelligently,” Vélez said.

José Ledesma, CEO of Discover Puerto Rico, will be advising companies, especially small businesses, on the tricks of the trade to successfully export their products. He said companies need to tailor their products to each specific foreign market. “I will talk about the need to prepare and the tasks one must complete to be successful,” he said. “It is not merely saying I will export to Australia, for example, but that I am becoming familiar with that market.”

For instance, Puerto Rico’s ethnic products, such as empanadillas or sofritos, which are used in local cuisine, can be sold outside of Puerto Rico. “But you have to remove the ethnic element from it and make it more general,” he said.

Ledesma, who has more than 10 years’ experience exporting coffee to Asia, said there are export fairs companies can attend to exhibit their products, an exercise he said businessowners must do. Businessowners should also consider doing studies to ascertain if their product will obtain good reception in a specific market. “Sometimes the preparation is not done in a rigorous manner,” he said.

Samuel Pamias, intellectual property lawyer in local and federal courts, will be available to provide information so businessowners can protect their intellectual property, brands and trade secrets. The biggest advice Pamias gives companies wishing to export is to register their property rights in the country where they are going to export before making any investments. Each country has its own intellectual property laws, but there are international treaties such as the Protocol of Madrid that force signatories to respect property rights. Pamias said he has contacts from around the world who can help local businesspeople with the registration of their property rights. “I also register in the United States. Puerto Rico is a bridge to registering rights in other parts of the world, and our costs are more economic,” he said.

Primex Executive Director Migdalia Rosado said the educational plan allows local entrepreneurs to prepare, organize and execute a plan to remain solid and expand their business.

“The export event we will hold Feb. 26 includes a special process. Primex will give 10 companies the opportunity to participate in an academy that will allow them to export products,” she said.

Digital Marketing Management Seminar to be Held Thursday

my marketing ilustration

SAN JUAN – Ivelisse Arroyo, a digital marketing and customer service consultant, will conduct a seminar entitled, “Do you know what digital marketing is?” aimed at small-, midsize- and large-business entrepreneurs, professionals and marketing management to develop new growth strategies.

The Thursday, June 23, event will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is organized by Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension (Primex), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing assistance to small and midsize entities to improve and expand business endeavors.

The seminar will be offered at Primex’s offices on 268 Muñoz Rivera Ave., suite 1002, and participants must bring their own laptop, as Internet access will be provided.

The seminar costs $85 per person and reservations are required by calling 787-756-0505. To register, visit the following link: