When Hurricane Hugo destroyed my house in Punta Las Marias, Puerto Rico in 1989, I had just turned 12 years old. The category 3 storm devastated much of the island, but compared to Hurricane Maria, Hugo was a near miss. And yet, my life changed forever and the ruin was too much for my mother to bear as she raised four children on her own in abject poverty. After this devastating event, my mother and siblings faced the false choice of sacrificing their own future and education to save the youngest in the family. Thus, I became the child the village raised and was the first in my family to get through high school or college, eventually leaving Puerto Rico behind. The slow decline of La Isla del Encanto was accelerated after the end of Section 936 of the tax code in 1996, which once made the island an attractive investment destination, particularly for the pharmaceutical industry. To the day, this tax change marked the beginning of Puerto Rico’s recession and decades of economic decay and mass exodus. Hurricane Maria finished the job, leaving a tragic loss of life that is still hard to count, island-wide collapse and 3.4 million Americans in hopeless darkness.
While there is something particularly cruel about being hopeless in the sunny Caribbean, Hurricanes Maria and Irma before it, have galvanized business leaders like Sir Richard Branson, who is leading efforts to mobilize a Caribbean Marshall Plan. No firm can give or gain as much as Amazon from this once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the commons of the future. Led by the increasingly assertive Jeff Bezos, Amazon is a company that can buy Whole Foods Market for $13 billion and erase the expense with gains in its share price. Not only does this firm have an incredibly loyal market following, its investors are handsomely rewarded as the company’s moves into new markets appear to defy both competition and stock price gravity. Planting an Amazon flag in Puerto Rico, would not only end the search for the optimal spot for a second headquarters, euphemistically called HQ2, it would be met with similar market response as the Whole Foods Market acquisition. Here are some of the business reasons why: