Business Leaders, Mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico Discuss Long-Term Recovery

Last month, business leaders met in Washington, D.C. with the Honorable Mayita Meléndez, the Mayor of Ponce, Puerto Rico. The event was an opportunity for the private sector to hear first-hand how they can help with the long-term recovery efforts in the city.

Even before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has been struggling economically. From 2006 – 2016, Ponce has lost 10.4% of its population to migration. This loss of population has created a 6.2% tax loss to Ponce in the last fiscal year alone. Since Maria, it is estimated that more than 400,000 Puerto Ricans have left the island. It is too soon to estimate the realized impact in terms of economic loss. Mayor Meléndez stressed that the city of Ponce is looking for private sector partners that can help with the reconstruction and economic development in the city. The Mayor and her team are working towards building a new economic ecosystem in Ponce to support a resilient business community. The need for public-private partnerships is great as municipal funding is decreasing and rebuilding costs are high.

Similar to other parts of the island, some of Ponce’s main priorities include broad infrastructure support, access to health care, and to have people return to the city. The Mayor did celebrate the achievement that the port of Ponce was able to re-open within weeks of the Hurricane which has helped facilitate a quicker recovery.

Mayor Meléndez also expressed that rural communities throughout Puerto Rico—including those outside of Ponce’s city center—are in dire straits. There are still urgent needs for water, shelter, and power in many of the rural areas of the island.

Many of the businesses in the room stressed the need to know explicitly how they could help in Ponce, either by receiving updates from the Mayor’s office, or being able to fulfill specific needs.

Since Hurricane Maria made landfall five months ago, the business community has been eager to support Puerto Rico’s recovery. Between corporate donations to relief organizations and visiting the island to meet with those leading the recovery, the private sector is ready and willing to support this long-term effort.