How Puerto Rican evacuees will transform Florida and your business


Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and left millions seeking a new place to call home. Now the effects are about to significantly impact Florida and be felt throughout New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and other states across America.

With nearly 3.5 million Puerto Ricans planning on leaving the island (many already are here or on their way), U.S. cities undoubtedly will face a short-term burden. However, businesses could turn this into long-term advantages if they learn how to embrace the already flourishing Hispanic segment. 

Due to the proximity to the island, Florida will see the biggest influx of new residents comprised of families, business owners, doctors, nurses, lawyers, executives and other professionals, university students and more. With so many migrating within such a short timeframe, yes, it will challenge the local infrastructure, educational systems, employment rates, housing market and more. However, these fellow hard-working American citizens very quickly will begin fueling local economies, bringing more businesses and increasing diversity. They immediately will increase sales across nearly every industry — restaurants, grocery stores, retail outlets, car dealerships, banks, hospitals, colleges and so many more.

Could this swing sales as early as this holiday season? That depends on how you already view the Hispanic segment and if your marketing campaigns have been developed and executed through a culturally relevant strategy verses simple translations. Think about the significance of so many families and business owners rebuilding their lives and all the needs associated with it. If your company does not have multicultural messaging ready to embrace this market, your business surely will miss out. 

Earlier in the year, hopes were not high for fourth-quarter sales due to the perceived sluggish growth of the economy and a controversial leadership in the nation. The good news is that according to the latest report from ThinkNow, a leading Hispanic research company, Hispanics already were planning to spend 33 percent more this holiday season over last year, due to greater disposable income and better anticipated deals on technology and innovation. That number could go up, especially now with the addition of more relatives and friends from Puerto Rico moving in with or close by them. 

Approximately 1 million Puerto Ricans already live in Florida. After the disaster brought by the recent hurricanes, Puerto Ricans are projected to pass Cubans soon as the largest group of Hispanics in Florida.

By 2030, there will be a population increase of 6 million in Florida, and Hispanics will represent 30 percent of the state, according to Augusto Sanabria, president of Prospera, an economic development, nonprofit organization providing bilingual assistance to Hispanic entrepreneurs. Hispanics now constitute more than 20 percent of the state. It is estimated that 57 percent of the expected population growth will happen in counties such as Orange, Osceola, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, and Broward, all of which already have a fast-growing Hispanic population. 

“These numbers confirm that our services are going to continue to be essential to ensure that Hispanics entering our market not only assimilate faster, but also increase their chances of succeeding in business,” said Sanabria. “These numbers don’t reflect the expected influx of business owners from Puerto Rico.”

For a successful fourth quarter and beyond, focus on the benefits of this changing market and implement these 3 key tips:

Embrace diversity: Over the decades, many corporations have thrown diversity under the rug. Is it because they are ignoring the statistics or do they think every segment responds to the same messaging? How are you planning to increase sales and assure a sustainable growth if you are neglecting the business impact that minorities, especially Hispanics, are bringing to the market place? This is a lucrative market that could enable your company to obtain a sustainable growth in the years to come.

Understand the differences: Many executives still identify the Puerto Rican community as the Mexican immigrant population. Puerto Ricans are Americans. They have U.S. passports and represent over 46 percent of the Hispanic population in Central Florida. You must get to know the new markets affecting our economy and ultimately your business. How much profit could you gain with a little extra knowledge?

Be prepared: It is estimated that 100,000 to 200,000 Puerto Ricans potentially could relocate, at least temporarily, to Florida. I strongly believe that based on the Hispanic market composition, Orlando and Tampa will be impacted the most. Puerto Rican entrepreneurs and business owners will begin fueling the local economy soon. How can you gain this loyal market?

If the Hispanic market was not on your priority list, it is time to rethink and reevaluate your marketing plan now. There is still a large population of foreign-born Hispanics, many of whom use advertising as an information vehicle to learn about brands and share their findings with others. Remember, diversity is a strong growth component of any modern city. And being adaptable is a strong asset to any successful company.


Hernan Tagliani , Contributing writer, Orlando Business Journal, Oct 11, 2017


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