Puerto Rico Economic Development Chief Confirms OZ is Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Manuel Laboy

The Opportunity Zone Expo Podcast
Puerto Rico Economic Development Chief Confirms OZ is Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity


Jack: Welcome back everyone to The OZExpo Podcast. I'm your host, Jack Heald. And joining me today is Manuel Laboy who is the Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce for Puerto Rico. Welcome, Manuel.

Manuel: Thank you for the invitation. This is an honor.

Jack: Well it's an honor for me to have you here as well. We always start these conversations by finding out a little bit more about the person that we're talking to. Where you came from, how you got here? So tell us, who are you? Who is Manuel Laboy? 

Manuel: That's an excellent question. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so I'm a native of Puerto Rico and I am a chemical engineer by trade.

Jack: Get out of town.

Manuel: Yes.

Jack: Oh, I love it.

Manuel: Chemical engineer by trade, I graduated from the University of Puerto Rico, on the west coast, which has the most important engineering school in the island. And also being recognized...
Jack: You would say that though.

Manuel: Actually, I do say it, by the numbers and the statistics and the credentials.

Jack: I'm just playing.

Manuel: Of course, I'm very proud to be an alum of the University of Puerto Rico. So I have more than 20 years of experience. 90% plus is in the private sector. I have done a lot of jobs in pharmaceuticals, manufacturing. I also have done projects in infrastructure and natural gas and renewable energy.

Jack: There's gotta be a story there to go from chemical engineering to infrastructure. I mean, walk us through that that path that's brought you to this position with the government of Puerto Rico. Because I would not have guessed “chemical engineer” would be on that resume.

Manuel: Well, of course, that was not in my career path where I am today. Because when I started, I actually executed chemical engineering principles. I was hired by a chemical plant in New Jersey when I graduated.
I even moved to New Jersey and I worked for a chemical company. It was great because I really loved chemical engineering. And at some point I decided to go back to the island. And at that moment the opportunities were more in other technical engineering fields.

Jack: Okay.

Manuel: And because chemical engineering has a solid background, you can actually start from there and navigate maybe to mechanic engineering, a little bit of electrical, a little bit of civil.

Jack: Sure.

Manuel: And that's how we started basically diversifying my professional career. Everything was fine and dandy doing all these kinds of projects until back in 2011. Somebody called me from the government of Puerto Rico, from the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company. And they were looking for a person that had an industrial background but wanted to see things from a broader perspective.

Jack: Yeah.

Manuel: One thing led to the other and I actually was hired by the government of Puerto Rico, the industrial development company.

That was my first experience in government. I spent one year, and then I went back to the private sector. But that one year made a huge impact because for the first time I was used to seeing things project-by-project, industry-by-industry. For the first time I saw things from the top level.

Jack: Right.

Manuel: How do you connect the dots? How the economy works, what are the different levers, the conditions -- necessary conditions -- to have the best business climate. How a jurisdiction like Puerto Rico competes against other jurisdictions. It was fascinating, I have to say.

Economic development is an incredible area and that particular moment changed my life. I have to say before that I was okay as an engineer doing different things. But that particular opportunity changed my whole perspective. Although I went back to the private sector, that little seed, that thing was still there. It was in 2015 when I met the current governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló.

He is also an engineer by the way, a bio-engineer. He has a PhD from a recognized university in the U.S. mainland. He is a scientist.

Jack: Right.

Manuel: And he's the governor.

Jack: A really interesting background he has.

Manuel: Yes.

Jack: Not what you typically think of as someone in the government sector.

Manuel: I met him in 2015. I didn't know him at all, and we just met. And then I was invited to certain meetings. It was all about different plans, strategies, projects.

Jack: This was before the hurricane?

Manuel: Oh yeah. This was before the hurricane. He was running for office at that moment and I just joined his team. I was doing my day-to-day job in the industry, but then during the weekends and at night I decided to chip in with my ideas and the different things that I learned when I was in the government in the first place in the first term. And then he became governor in 2016.

Jack: Right.

Manuel: So, he approached me about a month after he was elected. Actually, I was appointed to be part of his transition team. So, I also learned other things from the existing government, getting the new government in place. And then he said, “Listen, I think you have to be my secretary for economic development.” And I couldn't say no. I guess I was kind of expecting it…

Jack: Right.

Manuel: Because again, I had such an incredible experience before. I decided to say yes for two major reasons. Well, three major reasons. Number one, because I really believed in his vision and policy for Puerto Rico. Number two, because I think that my background as a person that has done the majority of his career in the private industry will provide a lot of good stuff on the table…

Jack: Oh, of course.

Manuel: …being a government official. And number three, it was probably an opportunity of a lifetime for me.

Jack: Yeah.

Manuel: To contribute to make things better in the island.

Jack: There's a lot of emotional satisfaction. It's not merely intellectual and career. It's probably deeper than that.

Manuel: That's for sure. Especially because after the hurricane, going through that experience, it was incredible. That was something that I don't think… Nobody could prepare you for something like that.

Jack: No.

Manuel: So yes, you're right. I mean there's a lot of emotion at stake and the fact that you can contribute. And like I always say to certain people, you also need to have fun.

Jack: Hey, I'm down with that.

Manuel: So, fun in terms -- of course – of enjoying the journey.

Jack: Yeah.

Manuel: The journey that you are on, that this is something special. A kind of a tour of duty if you want to. We'll label it such.

Jack: The joy is in the journey. I mean, if it's all about the destination then once you get there, it's over. Yeah. You got to have fun on the way.

Manuel: Yes. That's how I ended up being the Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce.

Jack: Interesting. Okay. There is a lot of misconception about the nature of Puerto Rico as it relates to the United States and I suspect a lot of potential developers, potential investors, really don't understand the status of Puerto Rico. You want to clear that up for us?

Manuel: Of course. Number one: Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, a U.S. jurisdiction. That's very important. We have a very proud heritage being Latin American. But, from the political and economic standpoint, we are within the United States system, meaning that we are protected by the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. laws and regulations, the stability of the U.S. dollar, which is the currency in Puerto Rico and the fact that the legal system is fully implemented in Puerto Rico, the protection of intellectual property and things like that.

We are part of the U.S. So, when you conduct a business in Puerto Rico, essentially it is like conducting business in Florida or Texas. Of course, you know, with certain specifics that differentiate a territory from the state. But generally speaking you will be doing business under the U.S. jurisdiction. That's number one.

Number two, Puerto Rico is not a typical island. Sometimes people might think that because we are in the middle of the Caribbean. We might be like the other Caribbean islands, right? We're not, because Puerto Rico over the last 60 years has undergone a very sophisticated industrialization process. We are home of Fortune 500 Companies in sectors that are very highly-regulated, technology research driven. For example, we have top companies in the medical device sector, aerospace, pharmaceuticals, bio technology. Those are key sectors for Puerto Rico, to the point that the bio science industry on the island represents 30% of the economy. And manufacturing as a whole is 50% of the economy.

Then on the other side of the equation, because of that, we have a robust, developed finance insurance and banking system that supports that industrialization. We are an open economy. We have a trade -- a constant trade -- interstate commerce between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico. But we also import and export basically throughout the whole world. So Puerto Rico is considered to be a fairly open economy. And those aren't things that -- if you don't know about the island -- you might think that we might be underdeveloped. But once you go there, you realize that a is different story. So I think those are two important aspects.

And the third, Puerto Rico has been recognized to produce high quality talent, the human capital of Puerto Rico.
Although we are a small little island, it's amazing the talent that we produced. So those three items for me are very important that had to be considered when an investor or a developer is looking for places to conduct business, invest or do projects. But the truth of the matter is that some of these things are not highlighted outside the island. There's a lot of noise, misconceptions.

And of course, after the hurricane, one of the challenges that I'm facing as Secretary for Economic Development is that I’ve seen media -- it could be social media, it could be digital media, it could be even traditional media -- that still showcases pictures. Even, you know, some sort of the actual media of Puerto Rico, two weeks after the hurricane, or even a month after hurricane, or three months after the hurricane probably. And certainly providing the wrong impression that we are still in emergency mode.

We're not in emergency anymore. We are in a long-term recovery mode and it’s a big difference.
So, for me that's very important. You have to add the fact that also Puerto Rico - and this is probably the icing on the cake -- that we also offer very attractive incentives in different sectors.

Jack: We should probably talk about that.

Manuel: And that's part of the whole educational process.

Jack: I know that Puerto Rico is almost all Opportunity Zone at this point. I've heard 100%. I've heard 97%. As far as I'm concerned. that's close enough to all of it. However, I have to believe that there are some things that make Puerto Rico different from all the other 8,700 Opportunity Zone zones out there.

Manuel: Yes. Very accurate. The fact that Puerto Rico -- it's really, the official number is 94% -- is almost basically the whole island just because that remaining 6% doesn't comply with the definition of low- income communities in that census tract and oldest definitions.

But basically the whole island is a designated Opportunity Zone, now we have to also understand the fact that we already had and we have in place very attractive incentives that when you combine that with what the federal government offers through the Opportunity Zones program, which was enacted through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, that combination is very powerful. So you have the different tax incentives at the federal level.

Jack: Right.

Manuel: The tax deferral, the partial reduction of the deferred gain, and then the potential forgiveness after the 10 years that applies to Puerto Rico for investors that are taxpayers in the U.S. mainland.

Jack: Right.

Manuel: But Puerto Rico, for key sectors, we already offer very attractive incentives. For example, tourism. So, tourism we offer already a local state investment tax credit for the total cost of the tourism development up to 40% of the total cost. So that is already part of the capital stack.

Jack: That's all tax deferral?

Manuel: No, it is a tax credit.

Jack: Tax credit.

Manuel: It is a tax credit offered by the local government, by the government of Puerto Rico. And you can sell that into the market, which is what probably happens almost all the time. So you can monetize it through the different processes that are established at the local laws. And when you see a hotel development in Puerto Rico before Opportunity Zones they used to already include as part of the capital stack the 40% investment tax credit, of course, some private equity, some debt equity. But that investment is actually already was already very attractive...

Jack: I can imagine.

Manuel: ... and useful to promote a hotel development. So imagine now combining a Qualified Opportunity Fund that offers these different advantages at the federal level. Part of the stack combined with a 40% investment tax credit that day in Puerto Rico offers I think a very powerful combination. And we’ve already seen different development projects in the tourism sector that are basically structuring their deal based on that capital stack.

Jack: So yeah, you start with a good deal and it makes it an even better deal.

Manuel: Exactly, it was already a good deal; right now is a much better deal. That's on the tourism side. Let's talk about manufacturing.

Jack: Yeah.

Manuel: So industrial development manufacturing, Puerto Rico has a law that offers a 4% corporate tax income tax, 4% that's it.

Jack: I think Jerry Portella told us about.

Manuel: Correct. And then that's on the income side in a corporate income tax side of the business equation. But that law, which is Act 73 --the previous one was Act 74 -- Act 73 also provides you with 100% extension on dividends distribution. The same thing for the tourism law offers 100% extension on dividends distribution, but Act 73 act also offers a 50% tax credit for eligible investments in innovation research and development.

Jack: Okay. Both laws offer 90% extension on municipal and property taxes as well. Wow. So, when you combine all of that, we are seeing a lot of industrial development in Puerto Rico and also tourism development in Puerto Rico and both activities will benefit now much better because of the Opportunity Zones at the federal level.

Manuel: Sure.

Jack: I won't pretend to be familiar with incentives from all 50 states, but those are pretty extraordinary. What's the pushback that you get from potential investors? What are the complaints that you're hearing? “Yeah, that all sounds great, but…” What are you hearing?

Manuel: It all depends at the end of the day on the specific deal. When it comes down to it, the first step to get an investor or a developer in terms of having Puerto Rico within the radar. Believe it or not, my first hurdle is that lack of information about Puerto Rico. That's always been the lack of information. But once they get into it, the second part of it is to really understand the mechanisms of the incentives. Because these are sophisticated deals.

You know though, the whole structure of it requires a degree of expertise. So teaming up with the right local partner is always going to be a good idea, a tax lawyer, a CPA, people that really know these laws from A-to-Z. And we'll use those incentives to see the type of business proposal or development and make sure that they can really benefit to the maximum potential of it. That will be the same situation with the Opportunity Zones, now we need to have the experts. We have a lot of people now in the government that we're getting a fast track in terms of understanding the needed details associated with the law in itself, and the different regs that have been published by the Treasury.
But that expertise needs to be also combined with the local expertise of the incentives that we offer. And combining those. Also identifying what the projects are, then defining the different business and investment opportunities. That triangle is very important. And the fourth part of it is the permitting process. The permitting process ...

Jack: I was going to ask about that.

Manuel:... is very important to understand because although we are literally in the process of streamlining the whole permitting system in Puerto Rico, making sure that we can really provide the certainty that the investment requires, it's still important to understand the permitting system and the right partner will be a very important aspect to it.

Jack: Is the government providing any kind of a clearing house for information in terms of local experts that mainland investors and mainland developers can tap?

Manuel: Yes, we have made a partnership within the government between different key agencies. Number one, my agency, the Department of Economic Development and Commerce along with the chief investment officer of the governor of Puerto Rico, which is Mr. Gerardo Portela. And then the local Department of Treasury, that triangle of agencies. We have to combine efforts to achieve that particular goal.

In addition to that, we have done different local summits and forums to not only attract investors and developers to Puerto Rico, but also to do the matchmaking between government officials and also the ecosystem of professionals that we have in the island from the private equity investors, fund managers, the banking, the finance and insurance and stakeholders and of course the different professionals, the tax lawyers and CPAs and so forth to make sure that we do that matchmaking.

I guess the most important challenge if you ask me, is not only combining the investor with the project, but making sure that the project is a priority project for Puerto Rico.

Jack: Yeah, sure.

Manuel: And in Puerto Rico, we have identified nine key sectors that we believe should be the kind of inventory of possibilities for anyone that wants to go down to Puerto Rico and invest.

So number one, agriculture. Agricultural activities. Agro industries is a huge potential.

Jack: Really?

Manuel: Because we only produce… Just 1% of the economy is agriculture in the island and we import 85% of what we consume. So imagine how can we flip that into an opportunity and there are policies in place to ensure that agriculture is now a sector that can grow from where we were raised today, which is basically almost nonexistent compared to the potential. Number two: manufacturing. Manufacturing is a solid investment in Puerto Rico, but I think that we can take it to the next level in two directions. Number one, we have over 200 industrial parks in the island, 200. Those parks...

Jack: What's the size of Puerto Rico?

Manuel: 100 miles by 35 miles. So, I think it's roughly the size of Connecticut or Rhode Island -- along those lines.
200 new industrial parks. Out of those, probably half of those are still good for manufacturing. And there are properties available and land available to continue developing those assets for Industrial purposes. But the other half of those industrial parks no longer have an industrial attractiveness. They could be redeveloped for institutional projects, tourism, agriculture, technology.

There is a big boom of startups in Puerto Rico. So for example, coworking spaces, incubators, technology escalators, that's something that is growing in Puerto Rico.

And then also some of these buildings could be repositioned for commercial or even mixed-use development. And we already have done a due diligence to determine which of those assets can be repositioned and what the ones are that could continue to be redeveloped for industry purposes.

Jack: Is that information available from your department?

Manuel: It is available. And actually you can do a first search of available property that is owned by the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company. If you go to the webpage BusinessInPuertoRico.com there is a section that is their site selection map.

Jack: Okay.

Manuel: And you will have a digital platform that you can see what is available in terms of land or property under the industrial development company. Also the Puerto Rico Land Bank Administration and then Opportunity Zone initiative has more than 700 projects available -- land available -- for redevelopment throughout the whole island. I have to say that these are assets that are owned by the government.

Jack: Okay.

Manuel: It’s not owned by a third party. They're owned by the government and depending on the deal, we can structure a lease agreement, or we can actually sell that asset depending on the business proposal. That alone, I can tell you the Puerto Rico's industrial site development company and the Land Bank administration are two agencies that move relatively quick under the government standards, definitive government standards. But I have to say that even within that we move relatively quickly because we have a sense of urgency, specifically if it is a project associated with Opportunity Zones.

Jack: Sure.

Manuel: Another area that we are in very interested in developing is aerospace; the aerospace sector is growing in Puerto Rico. I already mentioned technology. Creative industries, for example film, are growing in Puerto Rico. So we have already a couple of projects related to film studios.

Okay. That's another. That's something that investors and developers can look at.
Also, ocean technology and renewable energy, that's very important because we just passed a law for a new energy public policy that says Puerto Rico in 2025, 40% of the energy has to be renewable sources. Today's only 2% and by 2050 has to be 100%. So there's going to be an opportunity to develop projects associated with ocean technology and renewal energy.

Jack: I almost hesitate to ask this question, but I won't. Anything happening that you know of with ocean energy production around Puerto Rico today?

Manuel: Today? Nothing today. Renewable energy is… 2% that we generate is solar and wind, for the interest of your question. It happens though that although we don’t have anything today, we are working on submitting and completing a master plan to develop the first park based on ocean thermal energy conversion in Puerto Rico.

Jack: Cool.

Manuel: That will be an incredible opportunity for investors and developers to take advantage of Opportunity Zones because the proposed project is in the area is fully covered this in it as an organism. They will be the third in the world. By the way, there's only two in that particular technology, one Hawaiian, one Japan. This will be the third and probably the largest now.

Jack: That's pretty exciting. Sounds very cool. Other areas? How do folks find out about that particular initiative?

Manuel: Right now, the inquiry must be through our department.

Jack: Okay.

Manuel: Because we haven't published that plan yet. We are planning to publish it probably by the third quarter of this year.

Jack: Okay.

Manuel: So, this is imminent.

Jack: So just keep in contact with your office.

Manuel: Yes. And we're going to be doing the proper announcement sometime later in the year and that will be part of our website.

Jack: I like to ask slightly more personal questions, and sometimes it's a little different for the people that I'm dealing with being in government. So, hang in there with me. We're going to ride the wave a little bit. What is one of the most pleasant surprises that you've experienced in your position in the government? Something that turned out a whole lot better than you'd anticipated?

Manuel: That's a nice question. I can think of other few experiences that will meet that particular aspect. I can tell you probably, there's two that I can show you.

Jack: I'll take two.

Manuel: In addition to implementing the permitting reform, important to streamline processes and development, in addition to attracting investment, in addition to support local, the media enterprises as part of our job as well. We also manage two very interesting programs.

We manage the Youth Development Program and the Workforce Development Program. These are two specific programs that not only have the mandate to address current needs, but we're trying to basically shape it into what is really going to be Puerto Rico into the future. So we are getting into some uncharted territory, at least what other secretaries should have done prior to my appointment. So we are investing in location.

We are using current resources to tackle some long-term issues, for example dropouts in school. So we're getting into that. We are teaming up with NGOs to ensure that we can deploy some very interesting new approaches to lower the dropouts of the students at the K-12 system.

We can ensure the pipeline of the next generation of entrepreneurs and the next generation of the workforce. When you get into that area, it is another world because you will face social issues as well. But those are one of the things that if you don't do it today, the next Secretary in the next 10 years is going to face huge problems. So we are thinking not about the current needs of Puerto Rico. We think about what is going to be the future of Puerto Rico.

Same thing with the workforce development. We are investing in robotics with the student's advocate will assist in and universities. We’ve establish a new council. I've actually counseled for blockchain for example, because Puerto Rico can well be well-positioned into the blockchain and the cryptocurrency realm and future development.
And then we also betting on two interesting new areas like medicinal cannabis. For example…

Jack: You know, I made myself a note and I wanted to ask about that.

Manuel: ..and hemp, which is kind of the cousin of cannabis as well.

Jack: Is that all you're going to say about it?

Manuel: No. To your point, youth and workforce was very important, but then you have emerging sectors that we believe are well-positioned to become part of the economy of the island in the future.

Jack: So, the law currently in Puerto Rico about cannabis is what?

Manuel: Since 2017, there's a new law -- Act 42 of the same year -- that legalizes cannabis for medicinal purposes and for research purposes and it was centered around the wellness and the health of the population, especially people that require specific treatment because of their chronic diseases. But certainly, attending that major policy goal, there is an economic effect of it, which is a new industry.

And the numbers that we have seen for the last couple of months as recent as 2017, is that this is a growing industry. And I think that what's going to happen is that once we reach the ceiling of the whole universe of patients that can be eligible to receive this type of a treatment according to the law, which today is about maybe 250,000 people in Puerto Rico. We're not even close to the hundred thousand people that have a license.

So, the market's growing because the demand is there. But by the time we get there, my projection is that at some point it will be legal at the federal level.

Jack:  Yeah. It's going that direction.

Manuel: I think it's a matter of time. As a matter of time, I know it's legal at the state level and territories, but in a matter of time, it will be legalized, at least the medicinal side of it in the foreseeable future. Puerto Rico will be well-positioned, not only to tackle our domestic market, but be a platform to export products on services associated with medicinal cannabis. And that's where the real growth is.

Jack: Very good.

Manuel: But in the meantime, the domestic market, it's growing and it represents potential investment for investors. And of course developers.

Jack: That is one of those where, you know, if you're a first mover in that market, you really are gonna establish some advantages that -- if you just wait around to see if it's gonna happen -- it might all be all over but the crying. So, I'm really excited to see that.

Manuel: We have the land mass on land. I mean we're small. But still there's land available for the crops. But most importantly we have the buildings. We have the crops; we have the infrastructure and more and more the medicinal cannabis is moving into more controlled environments.

Jack: Yeah. I think it's almost got to be.

Manuel: Exactly. It has to be there. So we have the facilities. And on top of that, we have the manpower. We have the workforce that knows about regulatory processes similar to farm some instances in the case of CBD oil and things like that. We have all the ingredients to become a true player in terms of medicinal cannabis, especially when Puerto Rico can be used as a platform for broader markets.

Manuel: But then the hemp, the industrial hemp, which is now booming the island ever since at the federal level was legalized through the farm bill. Now I've seen projects in the millions of dollars investment already in the pipeline, whether it is for growing of the actual crop. But most importantly, the hemp has literally thousands of applications, manufacturing applications. And because it's legal at the federal level, we can actually import and export. So what I think is going to happen in the next five years, hemp is going to be a huge industry in Puerto Rico. And that's going to be another opportunity to invest in.

Jack: I think you’re right.

Manuel: Okay. Tourists and tourism. It's the low hanging fruit. Everybody wanted to go to Puerto Rico. Probably one of the areas we are going to see that is right for investment is tourism. But I wanted to highlight -- in addition to tourism -- there are a number of areas that I believe should be very attractive for any investor and developer to potential Opportunity Zone projects in Puerto Rico. I have to also highlight one thing.

Jack: Sure.

Manuel: Jack, in addition to these special laws that we have, these are current special laws. In addition to streamlining processes for permitting in the next couple of days, weeks --I think it's going to be days, not weeks -- the governor is going to sign an Opportunity Zone local law that is going to compliment the Federal Opportunity Zones program, our local incentives for strategic projects and sectors and for the rest of the potential developments on their designated zones.

So, it's going to be incredible. I have to say our local Opportunity Zone law with the different special incentives law, the federal program. And then, when you add to the whole equation in the mix, the federal funds that are going to be invested in Puerto Rico over the next 10 years for infrastructure and housing, it is incredible. You know, for me, and I'm not saying this just because I'm the Secretary of Economic Development and I'm a proud Puerto Rican and a proud U.S. citizen as well. I am saying because the facts are there.

Jack: Right.

Manuel: The facts can be reviewed. They can be, you know, you can verify those facts and when you really look at it objectively, it is truly unprecedented time for Puerto Rico and for those that are looking to invest in Opportunity Zones. When you add all these different factors combined, we would really differentiate from the rest of the zones. We really do.

Jack: Yeah. I'm absolutely a believer. I think it's quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And I don't think there's anything, any other opportunity like it in the Opportunity Zone program. I don't think there's any question.

Manuel: I have to say that almost all experts are saying that if a -- through that line of thought – once-in –a-lifetime opportunity is true, and experts are saying, “You got to do it right from the beginning. It has to be done right from the beginning.”

And we're very mindful about that. I personally believe that we are doing everything that we need to do to be smart about it, to be effective about it, and to do it right from the beginning. One of these things that if you don't have a second chance, you have to do it right. Credibility is important. You have to build trust with the investment community. It’s a relationship that provides what the investment community requires to address risk, assume risk and manage uncertainty. I think we understand that and we as a team in terms of the government, we are doing everything that we need to do to take Puerto Rico to the level that these different variables are favorable for the investor. And for the developer.

Jack: I'm giggling just a little bit because I see you get excited and the microphone starts moving around. That's okay. I get excited. Well, man, I love these kinds of conversations partly because I get to meet smart people who are passionate about what they're doing and partly because it's just bloody interesting and very, very exciting. We're going to wind it up. Any last words for us?

Manuel: Yes. Puerto Rico is open for business.

Jack: I've heard that before.

Manuel: We are open for business and, we want Puerto Rico to become the island of innovation. So, not only we want to promote investment, we want to promote the smart investment, but we also want to transform the social and economic landscape of the island and whoever ends up, which we believe is going to be a lot of people investing and developing projects in the island, what we want is that they also buy into the whole purpose of it. You know, the meaning of what we're trying to do, that the next 10 years is going to be important for the island to become a great place, it’s already a great place, but to become a greater place for all citizens of Puerto Rico, for all U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico.

Jack: I love the vision, that is beautiful stuff. Thank you. 
Well, on behalf of Manuel Laboy, the Secretary of Economic Development and Commerce for Puerto Rico. I am Jack Heald for The OZExpo Podcast. All the information you heard here on the podcast today, will also be available on the podcast website. Thank you for listening. Be sure to subscribe and we will talk to you next time.

Announcer: This podcast is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal tax or investment advice. For specific recommendations, please consult with your financial, legal, or tax professional.

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