Meeting to unveil business opportunities in Haiti's recovery
By Zachary S. Fagenson
While relief continues to flood earthquake-battered Haiti businesses, the US and Haitian governments are gearing up for long-term reconstruction.
That massive, multiyear effort will be directed by a plan developed by the Haitian government and supported by US public and private sectors, according to Rick Wade, deputy chief of staff to Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.
"We'll have a number of agencies involved such as the [Overseas Private Investment Corp.], the International Development Bank, and those financing agencies will be responsible for working with Haiti in this investment and rebuilding strategy," Mr. Wade said Tuesday. But "it's important that that process be developed and implemented by Haiti."
Mr. Wade, along with several officials from US agencies involved in Haiti's long-term development, are to be in Miami on Tuesday for a daylong seminar examining procurement and investment opportunities in Haiti for businesses.
The meeting, organized by the commerce department and hosted by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, is "part of an outreach strategy to engage the Haitian-American business community," Mr. Wade said.
"Obviously the President has made a commitment to help work diligently with the reconstruction of Haiti and Secretary Locke and I are sort of leading the business reinvestment in Haiti," he added.
The day will kick off at 8:30 a.m. in the chamber's downtown offices with remarks by chamber President Barry Johnson; Manny Mencia, senior vice president for international trade and business for Enterprise Florida; Eduardo Torres, South Florida US Export Assistance Center director, and others.
And it seems opportunities for Florida companies are plentiful.
"Our companies are well-positioned in terms of geography and also in the industry sectors," Mr. Torres said. And "of course everything that goes from the ports here goes very easily to Haiti."
Though the export assistance center's No. 1 task in the seminar and in the long-term recovery is to "provide information to US businesses on where the opportunities are and how to take advantage in terms of providing the government tenders," he also identified opportunities for businesses in the redevelopment.
"I think that the building and construction sector is going to be very, very important in terms of building materials and everything else that has to do with heavy equipment," Mr. Torres said. "And then of course the building of schools, hospitals, the basic infrastructure that any country needs to continue on their process of progress."
The day will continue with a panel offering perspectives on doing business in Haiti and a second examining the government's procurement process with Gary Juste, deputy director of USAID's Office of Acquisition and Assistance.
Though the agency is widely known for its work in disaster relief, Mr. Juste said it will be in Haiti throughout recovery and redevelopment.
"We first started out doing immediate relief, saving lives and providing necessities," he said. "Now we're moving with plans to rebuild and reconstruct, but the very first step is to assess the country's needs.
"Then we'll design activities that address those needs and then we'll implement that through activities that can achieve results."
While Mr. Juste said he wasn't sure what the agency's exact scope of work will be in reconstruction, USAID is trying to teach businesses that haven't worked with the agency before about its procurement process through such websites as www.fbo.gov.
"We are truly reaching out to see if we can expand our partner base to include nontraditional partners," he added. "It's a real effort that the agency is making [and] we're having procurement reforms to adapt to that."
A non-traditional partner is "one who has not received any awards with USAID in the past five years or one who never received an award beyond $5 million," Mr. Juste said.
And though it's still tentative, a plan is forming for what role USAID will play in reconstruction.
"We'll be working under economic growth, we'll be doing a lot under health," Mr. Juste said. "We were involved in HIV and AIDS in the past. We'll be doing some democracy and governance, and also some [work] in shelter."
After lunch, a final panel will bring together representatives from the Overseas Private Investment Corp., the International Trade Administration and the US Trade and Development Agency to examine tools for fostering investment and opportunities.
Those opportunities are vast.
"American companies are already doing work in Haiti, working on the ports," Mr. Wade of the commerce department said. Other opportunities lie in the "apparel sector, the cultivation and production of mangoes [and] there are a number of companies that have done work in small electronics industry."
Yet the most important element of the conference isn't to identify the most lucrative opportunities but to connect private businesses to the resources that will plug them into badly beaten island nation.
"Our job is just to be that catalyst to get businesses connected to opportunities in Haiti," Mr. Wade added, "and those [opportunities] run the gamut."
Details: $75 per person. (305) 577-5445 or www.miamichamber.com.