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The Puerto Rican government picked Jacksonville as the U.S. hub for a new program helping small and mid-sized Puerto Rican companies find export markets for their products.
The choice of Jacksonville solidifies the city’s relationship as the major gateway for trade between Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland. The government picked Trailer Bridge, headquartered in Jacksonville, to provide shipping services over water, and tapped AJC Logistics, which has an office in Jacksonville, to handle ground-based shipping and storage needs.
A Jacksonville Port Authority official announced the program during a conference Thursday about how Northeast Florida companies can gain business from Puerto Rico. Officials from the Puerto Rican government said the recession has battered the island’s economy but growth is slowly returning.
“Come on over,” said Edgardo Valladares, executive vice president of the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce in San Juan. “We want your investment.”
As an island economy, Puerto Rico depends heavily on goods being shipped in. Jacksonville’s port accounts for about 70 percent of the cargo sent to Puerto Rico. The island, a commonwealth of the United States, is home to many international manufacturers, which make 99 percent of the products that Puerto Rico exports. The other 1 percent are made by smaller Puerto Rican companies. To help those companies gain more export business, the government would subsidize the shipping costs to ports in Jacksonville, the Dominican Republic and Panama.
Speakers at the half-day conference, titled “Doing Business with Puerto Rico,” said the island can likewise be a market for Northeast Florida businesses. Attendees heard presentations by JaxPort, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Administration, JAXUSA Partnership and JaxPort about assistance available for businesses interested in Puerto Rico.
“There’s not going to be a lack of resources in this area for you to reach Puerto Rico,” said Raul Alfonso, senior director of trade development and global marketing for JaxPort.
David.Bauerlein@Jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4581
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