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11th Americas Competiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship Welcome Dinner and Reception - May 19, 2019

[As Prepared for Delivery]

Good evening!

Thank you, Maryse, for the kind introduction and thank you for the work that you do at the Organization of American States!

To our friends here with us from near and far, thank you all for your commitment to enhancing and strengthening the economies of our countries.

ACE has been an important vehicle in advancing commerce and trade among participating nations, accelerating business opportunities, and promoting collaboration between all stakeholders.

I am pleased to be working with all of you.

I am thrilled to be here this week to see first-hand the cutting edge work that is being done to advance the innovation economy in Puerto Rico.

Proudly the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which I am honored to represent, has worked closely with local economic development officials throughout the Islands to support their competitive strategies designed to stimulate private investment and create new jobs.

Our work here has been especially vital in the wake of the devastation wrought by the Hurricanes of 2017.

To help areas hit by natural disasters in 2017, including Puerto Rico, Congress appropriated to EDA $600 million in additional Economic Adjustment Assistance (EAA) Program funds for disaster relief and recovery efforts.

During your visit this week, you will see and hear about a number of EDA projects representative of our disaster work.

You will hear about Puerto Rico Manufacturing Extension, Inc., where an EDA disaster supplemental investment is helping to provide technical assistance, training and continuity of operations preparedness for small and medium-sized manufacturers throughout Puerto Rico.

The project will assist with sustainability in the region and increase preparedness for future catastrophic events.

You will visit the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust here in San Juan where a $4.4 million EDA Disaster grant helped establish a facility to be known as The Forward Center, a disaster-resistant building that is home to 60 high technology startups.

You will hear about how we are supporting a local strategy to boost the vital tourism industry through the work of the Foundation for Puerto Rico, which is helping to create Destination Plans for each region here and assist with the creation of new tourism-related businesses.

In addition to our disaster role, EDA also supports innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives through our Regional Innovation Strategies – or RIS - program.

Under RIS, programmatic support to help convert research and inventions into jobs has been funded through the i6 Challenge.

We are proud to spotlight for you one of our i6 Challenge grantees this week: The Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust.

With the assistance of a nearly $400,000 EDA i6 Challenge grant, the Trust has developed a Resiliency and Business Innovation project that can serve as a global model for how to create innovation and economic opportunities after local disasters.

We look forward to demonstrating the impact of this project – and others - and we are pleased to be sharing these best practices with you.

I encourage all of you to look at the i6 Challenge as a template that can be emulated to promote innovation and research in your countries.

All of the work that you will see didn’t happen by chance.

The projects were planned methodically using a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies – or CEDS - work plan to ensure collaboration among individuals, organizations, local governments and private industry.

In short, business and economic development officials can use these strategy tools to be more effective; to create more and better-quality jobs for citizens; to make better investment decisions; and to enhance economic efficiencies that make us, collectively, more competitive.

Belize, Mexico, and Argentina have already adopted our CEDS model methodology.

As part of ACE, we encourage other nations to take a close look at the CEDS process to help advance regional economic development collaboration in your countries.

Based on its unique competitive advantages and growing innovation ecosystem, Puerto Rico offers an incredible opportunity for investment.

I’d also like to mention that Puerto Rico is almost entirely designated as an Opportunity Zone, which provides special incentives for further private sector participation and development.

The Opportunity Zone designations will be especially important in driving additional private investment here as Puerto Rico moves forward with their disaster response.

When the right conditions are in place, and the right partners come together and increase their level of interaction — good things happen for job creation, increased investment, and improved prosperity.

This Exchange and your commitment to sharing best practices to improve our collective economies is testaments to this philosophy.

Through ACE we will continue to find new channels for working together in new ways.

We are indeed grateful for the partnership and look forward to our continued discussions and great progress moving forward.

It is an honor to be working with all of you!

Please enjoy your visit!


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