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Teamwork: Revitalizing Downtown Loíza

Recently the GP Strategies team in Puerto Rico, including Reuben Meador, Yolanda Velez (and son), Nilda Rodriguez (and son), and Maria Wiscovitch, came together to revitalize the city square in downtown Loíza. It was a remarkable experience. Here is the GP Strategies crew along with the mayor in front of the house we completed. It was great to work together in a different “team environment.” While the work was hard, the results were immediate (different from our current rebuilding efforts that can take some time).

In collaboration with the AESARA and Robert Pack foundations, we painted 16 houses and businesses around the city hall pavilion. Local people began to drive through the city center as word got out. People were amazed at the transformation; our team received many thanks. The purpose of painting the city square was to bring in tourism as well as businesses. As a bonus to our efforts, we learned that someone asked about renting one of the abandoned businesses that had been painted.

This project started when Luis Daniel, the director of federal programs for the municipality, asked me to meet with Sissi Pham of the AESARA group. AESARA has worked to raise over $300,000 in donations as well as medical supplies for the municipality of Loíza. Last year AESARA came to the island and helped paint four homes through the Ricky Martin Foundation. Sissi asked what she thought they should do as a project this year. I responded that the mayor should answer that question, as it pertained to the scope the municipality would want done. However, I mentioned that AESARA should not take on this task alone but should involve the community leaders, other businesses, and the community. By reaching out, we turned 24 people into almost 60. By involving the community, we will continue to grow this effort and not have it be just one weekend event a year.

Our purpose is to make the center of town an attraction for tourists and businesses alike. We would like to see Loíza become the “Springfield, MA” of Puerto Rico. Our plan is to build from the center out. AESERA will be back again in November for a visit, and then perform another round of work in January. My latest plan is to involve community leaders from the various barrios. We would like to supply them with paint so that they can choose a home that needs to be painted. We found that it costs roughly $200 per residential home to paint. The plan would be to get work crews out to these homes and deliver the supplies to the necessary residences.

Ultimately, this effort showed that with a vision, some funding, and a group working toward the execution of a goal, success will result. We at GP Strategies are here for our municipalities and customers for the long haul. We will help with the vision, gather funding, and execute to get the job done.

About the Authors

Bill Roberts
Leveraging approximately 20 years of management and financing experience, Mr. Bill Roberts plays a key role on the GP Puerto Rico team as a Program Manager specialist. Roberts established the Puerto Rico office and outfitted the local team with the appropriate resources to tackle post-Hurricane Maria challenges and support clients on the road to recovery. He regularly interfaces with PR municipal officials to better understand their program management needs and address the inspection of damage sites and infrastructure. Additionally, Roberts organizes community engagement initiatives in Puerto Rico on behalf GP Strategies.

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