Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) has developed and is currently deploying a new program called Bottom Up Destination Recovery Initiative, a community-based recovery approach that supports communities to become more resilient and active resources in the creation of economic opportunities.
The program identifies and invests in four impact areas that are critical to meet recovery and resiliency objectives: 1) addressing basic needs and improving the quality and resiliency of local infrastructure in order to minimize business interruption; 2) providing small business support to ensure business owners are able to cope with future emergencies, and promoting local entrepreneurship; 3) building the social capital of local organizations so they can work together on their own recovery and development strategy; and 4) developing branding and marketing strategies to bring more tourists to the community in a sustainable manner. Economic development in these communities is improved through better commercial operations, new businesses, job creation, workforce development and a growing tax base.
The Bottom Up program has been deployed in the municipalities of Orocovis and Humacao. FPR will expand the program to 24 new communities in six regions, all outside the San Juan metropolitan area, over the next three years. These communities offer remarkable tourism assets that could be showcased and developed to bring back visitors and foster economic recovery.
Over the course of this commitment, 2.5 million will be invested in public infrastructure, including solar systems, water cisterns and filters, and satellite communication systems, and 1.2 million will be deployed through grants to local entrepreneurs and SMEs. This expansion will impact 300 SMEs and lead to the creation of 72 new businesses and 1,116 new jobs.
PR will partner with key business development organizations to improve and accelerate program design and implementation. By executing this model, FPR decentralizes the assistance that is normally only available in the metro areas, and engages regions that have not been recipient of economic development, resiliency and preparedness strategies and services. It also promotes sustainability by bringing stakeholders to actively work together in the co-design of a Regional Destination Plan, business support and resiliency efforts.
The Bottom Up Destination Recovery Initiative aims to strengthen local communities to spur their own recovery and build the infrastructure required for growth and to become more resilient and better prepared for future disasters. Once the community is identified, the operational field team does an assessment to identify challenges and opportunities within each impact area. Upon the completion of the assessment, general planning guidelines are developed to guide investments within each impact area. Once those guidelines are in place, the operational field team works with local stakeholders to develop and implement specific projects within each impact area.
Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) has developed a 4-step implementation strategy that applies to every community and that has a one-year duration timeframe:
Community Assessment: Identify the needs, challenges and opportunities for each impact area. Identify key stakeholders. (Month 1-2)
Plan/Co-Design Stage: Using the community assessment, develop objectives for each impact area and work with local stakeholders on the elaboration of projects and targeted investments for each impact area. (Month 3-4).
Investments. Execute project investments (Month 4-6)
Evaluation: Evaluate results of projects investments during two-time periods; 3 months after implementation and 6 months after the implementation. (Month 7-12)
FPR will implement two Bottom up Regions per year (four municipalities). Therefore, milestones are the following (cumulative):
Year 1 milestones
- 100 SME’s impacted
- 24 new business ideas converted into new businesses
- $850,000 in infrastructure investments to improve resiliency
- 372 new jobs created
- 9 NGO’s receiving technical support
- 273 Number of people who received job training
Year 2 milestones
- 200 SME’s impacted
- 48 new business ideas converted into new businesses
- $1.7 million in infrastructure investments to improve resiliency
- 744 new jobs created
- 18 NGO’s receiving technical support
- 546 Number of people who received job training
Year 3 milestones
- 300 SME’s impacted
- 72 new business ideas converted into new businesses
- $2.5 million in infrastructure investments to improve resiliency
- 1,116 new jobs created
- 25 NGO’s receiving technical support
- 819 Number of people who received job training
Hurricane Maria had a profound impact on Puerto Rico’s economic base. Thousands of small businesses were forced to close doors and many remain unable to resume operations. The situation is particularly dire in communities outside the San Juan metropolitan area (which includes the municipalities of San Juan, Carolina, Bayamón, Trujillo Alto, Guaynabo and Cataño) where very few efforts to support small business recovery have taken place.
While distributing cash grants to small businesses, FPR learned that there were other issues affecting small businesses beyond liquidity. The absence of disaster preparation hindered the recovery in many communities across the island. Small businesses in the rural and mountainous regions of the island are more vulnerable to natural disasters and still require the tools and technical capacity to better prepare for future catastrophic events. Moreover, due to the uneven distribution of economic activity in Puerto Rico, which is very concentrated in the metro areas, and the outmigration trends exacerbated by Maria that diminished the local demand on which they are heavily reliant, small businesses in these communities are less able to maintain operations and sustain growth.
Months after hurricane Maria, Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) continued to witness help being delivered to many communities across the Island, but no real plan to help them get back on track. Therefore, recovery initiatives need to be coordinated as part of an integrated effort with multiple objectives and measurable results to ensure rigorous efficacy during the next storm. Given that many of these communities are falling significantly behind the recovery, a different and more comprehensive and inclusive economic development approach is needed to speed up recovery, strengthen resilience and create new economic opportunities in these communities.
Foundation for Puerto Rico seeks partners to provide either funding, in kind donations, or technical support around the four impact areas of the project:
Basic Needs and Infrastructure
- Energy Projects (community grids, solar lamps for businesses).
- Community Water Projects (water filters, community cisterns, water testing kits).
- Satellite Communications solutions for communities.
- New business opportunities to support entrepreneurs and SMEs associated with the visitor economy (cash grants, business incubation competitions, technical support, seed funding, revolving loan programs for SMEs).
Destination Planning and Development
- Develop alternative tourism destination marketing strategies highlighting the natural, cultural, adventure, agricultural, and gastronomic assets of the selected communities.
- Create market-based campaign for the region in collaboration with digital market outlets, designed to highlight the unique selling propositions of each selected community.
- Strengthen community-based NGO’s through technical support, cash grants and mentoring programs.
Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) will be spearheading the implementation of all Bottom Up programs in 24 new communities. FPR has already devoted over $1.4 million on the implementation of two Bottom Up programs in two municipalities (Orocovis and Humacao)
FPR commits to fundraise for the project expansion (24 new communities), add partners, document progress, and evaluate and publish results for each community implementation.