Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at Press Conference in Puerto Rico Highlighting the Administration’s Pledge to Support Economic Recovery and Renewal for the Archipelago

Feb 9, 2023

Remarks by Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves at Press Conference in Puerto Rico Highlighting the Administration’s Pledge to Support Economic Recovery and Renewal for the Archipelago
Thu, 02/09/2023 – 13:11

Investing in communities and workers
Workforce Development


Thursday, February 9, 2023

Office of Public Affairs

Don Graves

Good afternoon, everyone. It’s wonderful to be back in Puerto Rico.

In addition to my role as the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce, I’m proud to serve as the Biden Administration’s Puerto Rico Economic Growth Coordinator and am honored to be working to make good on the Administration’s pledge to support economic recovery and renewal for the archipelago.

My team and I work hand in hand with the White House to steer the whole-of-government effort known as the Economic Dialogue. The Dialogue is aimed at ensuring that resources from both the federal and Puerto Rico governments are invested effectively, swiftly, and equitably to benefit all residents of the archipelago.

The inaugural event for the Dialogue took place at the White House two months ago, on December 6. During the meeting, federal agencies and their Puerto Rico government counterparts endorsed a slate of actions and partnerships they will implement over the course of 2023.

We’re now shifting to the execution phase of the actions presented in December and we’ve set a timeline for ourselves of roughly a year. As part of this new phase, I’ve come back to Puerto Rico to follow up on many of these items and work towards proper and timely execution.

This has been an incredibly productive week, and I’d like to thank all of those that I met with here in Puerto Rico for sharing their ideas, concerns, and experiences with me.

I also have three exciting announcements to make.

First, I want to encourage all businesses in Puerto Rico to participate in the 2022 Economic Census. In today’s economy, businesses need direct access to accurate information and resources to remain competitive and innovative. One of our goals at the Department of Commerce is to expand opportunity for businesses through data. 

Invitations for the 2022 Economic Census began going out on January 31 to over 4 million business locations across our nation, including here in Puerto Rico. As the most comprehensive collection of data on America’s businesses and its workforce, data collected via the Economic Census helps businesses, communities and individuals make decisions that impact their growth opportunities, competitive advantage, and income.  It is also the foundation for our nation’s GDP and other economic indicators.

One of the key pillars of the Puerto Rico Economic Dialogue is all about data and increasing statistical capacity; the data collected in Economic Census provides the foundational and authoritative data set for measuring the growth of the archipelago’s economy.

This information is used by businesses, policy makers, local governments, communities, individuals, students, and researchers for economic development, business decisions, strategic planning, and forecasting.

Trade associations and chambers of commerce use Economic Census data to help measure key business facts they can use to gauge organizational structure, as well as product and market trends.

Individual businesses use the data from the Economic Census to make decisions about operating sites and expansion, capital investments, market research, and product development—just to name a few. 

If your business receives an invitation from the U.S. Census Bureau to respond to the 2022 Economic Census, please be sure to respond by March 15. It’s important. Each business that responds to the 2022 Economic Census is contributing to better data quality and better decisions-making for all businesses and communities across Puerto Rico.

Second, during my meetings this week I heard from business owners in the island about the needs for access to capital and financing. I’m pleased to announce that the Treasury Department has approved a proposal under the State Small Business Credit Initiative – or SSBCI – to grant the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico up to $109 million to support small and medium enterprises.  

The funding will operate two programs, which will both be administered by the Economic Development Bank for Puerto Rico. The loan participation program, allocated nearly $22 million, will participate in commercial loans and loans targeting specific strategic sectors for economic development. The collateral support program, allocated $87 million, will provide collateralized guarantees to lenders. Both programs will target low- to moderate-income communities and other underserved communities.

This is part of a $10 billion program from President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which is helping small businesses recover and helping start-ups and new small businesses take advantage of new opportunities so that they can grow and thrive. 

Third, we have an exciting announcement from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Today, NTIA announced it has awarded Universidad del Sagrado Corazón nearly $3 million to expand educational instruction and remote learning opportunities, spur economic development, and create opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship by building the broadband and digital capacity at Sagrado.

It’s part of NTIA’s Connecting Minority Communities Program, which is providing over $260 million to help minority serving institutions purchase broadband service and equipment, hire IT personnel, and create digital literacy programs.

And it’s in addition to the more than $5.7 million that Puerto Rico received in December to begin their planning efforts for the deployment and adoption of affordable, equitable, and reliable, high-speed Internet service throughout the archipelago under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This planning funding is just the start, and it’s going to help ensure we get it right. Connected communities create empowered communities, fostering economic growth and well-being. 

I’ll close by saying that the talent and energy that exist here give me not only hope but excitement about innovative approaches to tackling challenges in Puerto Rico together, through collaboration and co-creation. At the end, communities know what they need best. The Economic Dialogue, anchored in our shared economic agenda and policy priorities, will help to ensure Puerto Rico has the resources and tools it needs to prosper. 

Together, we’re laying the foundation for strengthened and sustained collaboration to deliver results for the people of Puerto Rico long into the future. 

So, thank you again for being here. I look forward to returning!

Bureaus and Offices

Economic Development Administration
National Telecommunications and Information Administration


Don Graves



Read the full report from the U.S. Department of Commerce: Read More