The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) has invited Stacy Strauss, director of Ohio University’s Innovation Center, to travel to Puerto Rico to help the commonwealth rebuild its entrepreneurship programs in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
The trip is made possible through a grant awarded to the IEDC from the Economic Development Administration (EDA), which has a long history of successfully supporting disaster recovery and resiliency efforts.
“I am honored to embark upon this opportunity to help,” Strauss said. “Ohio University has a strong track record of supporting economic development in Southeastern Ohio. This history now allows us to assist the North Central region of Puerto Rico – a similarly situated and populated area – with its recovery and regrowth following Hurricane Maria. I look forward to meeting with regional leaders and assisting in their planning process to rebuild their entrepreneurial support system.”
Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis said Strauss’ efforts help fulfill the University’s mission of making a positive difference in Puerto Rico.
“Ohio University strives to lift up those in need, whether it’s here in Appalachia or more broadly, such as in Puerto Rico,” President Nellis said. “The Innovation Center has a celebrated history of boosting the efforts of entrepreneurs, and those skills will be put to excellent use in helping Puerto Rico overcome the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.”
For one week in April, Strauss will travel to San Juan and, in cooperation with local partners, make several trips in and around the North Central region of the island. Since the storm ripped through the island in September 2017, nearly 200,000 families and businesses — 16 percent of the island — remain without power.
“Although the main recovery efforts are focused on power, water, internet and infrastructure redevelopment, the leaders of Puerto Rico recognize the importance of planning now for the relaunch of an entrepreneurial network,” Strauss said. “Upon speaking with them, it was clear that they understand the importance of having resources in place to support budding businesses - a documented best practice for job growth and economic development.”
The focus of the trip will be the provision of volunteer assistance in economic development to EXI Network Corporation in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. EXI has identified the need to bring an IEDC expert volunteer to help EXI develop planning for a regional innovation network. Strauss will engage with stakeholders, building understanding and support for the network. Strauss also will work with EXI to develop its approach, defining the metrics, surveys and other processes necessary to advance the concept.
“We are so pleased that Ohio University is participating in the volunteer program to Puerto Rico,” said Sarah Garcia, Senior Economic Development Associate at the IEDC. “We thank Ms. Strauss for helping the IEDC support our fellow economic developers in Puerto Rico at this time of need.”