In recent months, Puerto Rico’s economy has been suffering. In large part, the hard times can be contributed to Hurricane Maria, which swept through the island about a year ago. As a Category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Maria brought winds gusting over 150 miles per hour and over a foot of rainfall in some areas. Even more, it absolutely destroyed Puerto Rico’s power system and damaged more than one-third of the homes in the small island nation. 3,000 people lost their lives as a result of its dangerous winds and flooding.
For months after the hurricane, Puerto Rican citizens looked for aid in any way they could find it and worked to rebuild their homes. Still, the infrastructure of Puerto Rico did not recover and still has not recovered to this date. However, one interesting solution has been proposed. In February, Brock Pierce, a childhood Disney actor, spoke at the Puerto Rico Investment Summit. He acknowledged the infrastructure issues and lagging food supply. In his speech, he implied that there is a solution that could aid the ailing island: cryptocurrencies.
Quickly, Pierce’s solution hit the ground running as the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, established a blockchain advisory council. In addition, to bolster the struggling economy with blockchain and technology and cryptocurrencies, Rosselló has put the government resources behind cannabis and movie production among other things. They have taken a risky approach by placing small bets on a number of risky industries/ventures, hoping to find the next big thing. In the words, of Rosselló, “We want to put some of our biggest bets in some of these areas and direct incentives toward what has the greatest return.”
Filmmakers have long praised Puerto Rico for its value for producing films. The tropical outdoor setting and tax credits for crews sweeten the deal for American film crews. What they currently don’t have is the indoor facilities, studios, or locations to shoot the other scenes for these movies. Thus, with Rosselló’s plan, Puerto Rico will be building a 180,000 square foot film district. The district is expected to create more than 1,300 jobs and build on the $250 million movie industry.
With medical marijuana, Rosselló first made marijuana legal for medical uses back in January 2017. Surprisingly enough, Governor Rosselló has a background in subject matter related to marijuana with his Ph.D. in biomedical engineering and pharmaceutical startup. With his knowledge, he wants to push innovation on marijuana on the island. He has created and promoted a partnership with the University of Puerto Rico, which is expected to lead to more than $18 million in tax revenue each year.
For Rosselló, he knows the invests are a gamble, but a gamble worth taking in spite of the struggling economy. In the last year, the gross national product contracted 7% and growth is expected to fall sharply after federal aid stops. Puerto Rico needs to feed a way of the slump and fast.