In an interview with Alberto Bacó-Bagué, Secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce in the Government of Puerto Rico, we discussed why officials turned to LinkedIn as their primary platform to build a hub for entrepreneurs and to foster innovation across the country—all in an effort to address their larger economic challenges.
Rahim Kanani: What are the most critical economic and social challenges facing Puerto Rico today?
Alberto Bacó-Bagué: It’s no secret that Puerto Rico is facing some serious economic and social challenges. Though we boast a highly educated, skilled, and bilingual population, our labor force participation has been decreasing. The island’s highly skilled Puerto Rican graduates in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) disciplines are in high demand by top U.S. recruiters. Because of this, educated Puerto Ricans are leaving our beautiful island in search of jobs in the continental United States.
The government of Puerto Rico and the entire Administration of Governor Padilla, myself included, are determined to keep talented Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. We have the education, resources, incentives, passion and vision needed to reverse this pattern. For this reason, the government has released an aggressive work plan to help develop Puerto Rico’s entrepreneurial culture. We believe that the best way to combat employment attrition is to attract new investment while expanding existing local businesses and creating new ones. One innovative and exciting part of our new plan is the launch of Puerto Rico’s official LinkedIn page. The hope is to provide an easily navigable way to connect, encourage and drive entrepreneurism between individuals and businesses on the island.
Kanani: Why did you turn to LinkedIn as a tool to aid in your economic recovery?
Bacó-Bagué: We wanted to do something creative and new, something outside the confines of usual government thinking, while at the same time keeping in mind that we needed to benefit our local entrepreneurial business network LinkedIn felt like a natural fit for our needs; it will allow us to interact and share with the public in a way that a regular website cannot, plus it is where all business professionals are. LinkedIn is an innovative resource that countless private sector entities and local businesses use for advanced networking and information sharing.
Advances in technology, programs and applications have enabled the private sector to connect with more important stakeholders in new, more effective ways. Likewise, the use of tools like LinkedIn will allow us to more efficiently share, engage with and connect individuals outside of the public sector. We want to learn the best practices that have been honed and perfected by the private sector and apply that knowledge efficiently in the public sphere. Also, we are maximizing the LinkedIn tool as it allows us to centralize all aids, guidance and orientation to small and medium size business entrepreneurs all in one place becoming the main “hub” of information available to entrepreneurs at all times.
Kanani: And what are some specific ways in which you are harnessing the professional network’s platform to encourage entrepreneurialism?
Bacó-Bagué: We hope to use LinkedIn to connect government and industry with talent and opportunities, both locally and abroad. We will offer specialized workforce trainings, invite network members to employment events and promote hiring incentives. The platform will help our industries connect with similar businesses, form professional associations, perform market research and connect with clients. It will also enable businesses to conduct effective recruitment, easily meet potential consultants and efficiently establish relationships with freelancers. We hope to establish a feature for virtual communications to help each of these sectors to communicate with each other.
The Puerto Rican LinkedIn page will also serve as a central and permanent location for the government to store and share general information. Often information is inaccessible to the public, but this will offer a central and cohesive location to find important government materials. Information will be made available to entrepreneurs no matter at which stage of development your business is: from developing a business plan to financially growing your business to exporting your business services for business who are already established in Puerto Rico.
Kanani: Looking ahead 5 years, what role do you envision entrepreneurship playing as an economic driver?
Bacó-Bagué: We want Puerto Rico to be as well known for innovative entrepreneurship as it is for outstanding Caribbean rum and picturesque beaches. Though extremely important, our economy cannot solely depend on large corporations. Small businesses and increased entrepreneurism has the power to help our economy get back on track. We hope to see a marketplace driven by local businesses employing local workers. Local businesses, which are diversifying our economy, will position Puerto Rico as a highly competitive workplace worldwide. Currently we are working to support entrepreneur idea inception. In 5 years’ time we would like to see these ideas blossom into maturity.
Kanani: What are some other creative ways in which Puerto Rico is using digital media for good?
Bacó-Bagué: Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to use digital platforms to help connect Puerto Ricans with jobs, opportunity, important skills and ultimately a better quality of life. The government of Puerto Rico recently launched a new, dynamic online employment platform to help connect our skilled workers with employers looking to hire. One aspect of the platform is called, “Tweet My Jobs,” which uses Twitter to connect employers and job seekers. The platform can send personalized job recommendations directly to an individual’s Twitter account. It also enables our job-seeking islanders to distribute their resumes across the social web with the push of a button. By integrating with Facebook, Puerto Rico’s jobs platform differs from all other job services because our job recommendations show where job seekers have the best chance of being hired.
The platform also has a “one button” plan for employers as well, which allows them to easily post jobs for distribution across Twitter, Facebook, job aggregator sites, and to job seekers by email and to their mobile phones. Employers can also easily post jobs through the Department of Labor’s new Labor Exchange System, otherwise known as the Puerto Rico job bank. This free, easily navigable tool is another online way to connect employers with job seekers. From a travel and tourism perspective, we are also exploring some unique partnerships. For example, we have teamed up with TripAdvisor, in a distinctive marketing partnership that features real TripAdvisor reviews voiced over by some of Puerto Rico’s most famous faces, showcasing the Island. The advertising invites viewers to visit the newly redesigned website, to enjoy the full film shorts and learn more about the amazing experiences Puerto Rico offers.