Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats

SWOT ANALYSIS

The CEDS process requires a strategic investigation of a region’s capabilities and capacity. Starting in February 2020, supporters of SPREDD began to engage with community leaders and other stakeholders to develop regional cooperation for economic development in southwestern Puerto Rico. Existing cooperation agreements among sixteen municipalities in southern Puerto Rico were analyzed, and the six were recommended, as Ponce, Peñuelas, Guayanilla, Juana Díaz and Yauco. Guánica was added to cover all of the southwestern coastal municipalities, and because it was the epicenter of the 2020 earthquakes.

The EDD formation process commenced soon after parts of the region were significantly impacted by a series of strong earthquakes. Initial engagements were held with stakeholders representing: Manufacturing, Entrepreneurship, Agriculture, Small Business, Universities, Vocational Institutions, Tourism, Government, Resiliency Organizations, and Economic Development Organizations.

On January 29, 2021, the University of Puerto Rico – Ponce facilitated a virtual SWOT analysis event, attended by over 50 stakeholders in the region. The event provided a broad opportunity for regional leaders to provide input and direction on the state of the economy in the SPREDD region. The resulting analysis identified several key areas to leverage opportunities into clear strategic objectives and activities, and these are mentioned in the strategic direction/action plan section.

As a pilot EDD, this CEDS document is an initial locally-based economic development strategy. It has been developed to access key stakeholders to engage and coordinate with existing economic development initiatives. Those engaged include a geographically diverse group of community leaders from higher education, public service, and private industry.

As a result of these initial and subsequent stakeholder engagements, the following Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats were identified:

Strengths

  • Advantages of U.S. rule of law
  • Vast fertile land
  • Infrastructure
  • Connectivity to the global economy
  • Potential for “Blue” or “Ocean” Economy
  • More than 30,000 students; 6 universities 
  • Agricultural/agro-tourism
  • Healthcare and health-education assets
  • Ophthalmic goods manufacturing 

Weaknesses

  • Poor economy in the region & Puerto Rico
  • Not having an EDD
  • Expensive and unreliable power
  • Large underground economy
  • Many homes not compliant with codes; unable to withstand natural disasters
  • Extremely high poverty rate
  • Limited access to the capital markets 
  • Outmigration of skilled labor; low LFPR
  • Aging industrial facilities require cleanup
  • Multiple challenges to developing Port of Ponce/Port of the Americas and other ports
  • Limited capital for small business expansion/startups
  • Over-regulation, bureaucracy, “unbearable” permitting process, lack of government support 
  • Poor rural communication infrastructure 
  • Few economic development professionals
  • Limited airport connectivity
  • Some coral reefs endangered
  • Ag industry labor shortage
  • Inventory tax hinders economic development

Opportunities

  • Expanded air transfer rights 
  • Opportunity to develop new domestic air routes
  • Opportunity to “re-shore” pharmaceutical production
  • Progress in entrepreneurial development
  • Potential to develop coastal recreation
  • Alternative strategies/development for the Port of the Americas/Ponce
  • Increasing awareness of the value of agriculture
  • Opportunity to redesign Puerto Rico’s energy generation and distribution system
  • Opportunity to repurpose vacant and abandoned buildings for commercial use

Threats

  • Erosion or elimination of tax advantages, 
  • Further outmigration of skilled labor
  • Failure to properly upgrade and maintain critical infrastructure
  • Natural disasters (hurricanes and earthquakes) and climate change risk
  • Threats to credit firms receive for paying excise taxes under Puerto Rico’s Act 154 
  • Pandemic-related lockdowns threaten regional economy