Roughly 300,000 to 500,000 people have already left the island of Puerto Rico in search of a better life since the hurricane less than two years ago. There are more than one million Puerto Ricans living in Florida alone.
A small contingent from Columbus traveled to the island to look into the potential for recruiting here. We had several very productive conversations. This trip was intended to first and foremost, build valuable partnerships with key individuals on the island and secondly, to determine whether recruiting was a viable option for our area businesses to pursue.
Most people were very enthusiastic to offer assistance and to help make connections and recommendations for us. One key connection will include the federal assistance services on the mainland helping those who’ve already made the transition, but have not found the opportunities they were expecting and are potentially in economic distress. There are many looking for dependable jobs and safe communities with a lower cost of living. The team believes this is a much easier recruitment option due to the legal obstacles for recruiting from the island and because these are people who were already willing to relocate. We hope it would be a less expensive option also.
Overall, there is strong opportunity to attract employees from Puerto Rico. Our strongest potential looks to be nurses, teachers, accountants, and technical/mechanical/engineers. We feel it would be worth an attempt to run newspaper ads first with all of our pre-approved businesses included and simultaneously promoting our stability, opportunity, and quality of life. The best opportunities for recruiting in person will be through the college career offices and through the Department of Labor sites around the island.
We are concerned about the language skills we witnessed. We anticipated nearly every professional to be fluent, but found that better than half of them were not fluent at all. We’re also concerned about the logistics of pulling off a recruiting event, the expense and the processes. People are leaving the island in masses and are receptive to the idea of stability, safety, and a better life for their family.
The information about how to become an approved business for recruiting will be forwarded to anyone who wants it. We will speak to the Branson Chamber of Commerce about how they managed to do a city-wide recruiting effort and how to go about coordinating a unified effort as a Chamber of Commerce.
More will come as we work through the process of recruiting new residents to our area from the island of Puerto Rico.