Best Practice

One Businessman’s Personal Journey

Hurricane Maria and the Creation of LatinoJobsOnline.com

I came to Orlando 14 years ago from Puerto Rico to expand my executive search and human resources consulting practice. The move has been fruitful. From a small shop in Puerto Rico, we now have multiple offices across Florida and a national recruiting practice. And as shareholders of Career Partners International, we are part of one of the largest leadership, career management and outplacement practices in the world.

Over the course of almost a decade and a half, I have done my best to be a part of this community. From the corporate side, this has meant volunteering, encouraging my staff to get involved and donating to wonderful organizations such as the Central Florida Foundation, Heart of Florida United Way and Junior Achievement of Central Florida. Another more recent volunteer activity was joining the Orlando Economic Partnership, something I suggest all employers do.

Fast forward to late 2017 and think about Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico and neighboring islands. As it is in our team DNA, we donated time and treasure to support this crisis, as we have many others like those affected by hurricanes Irma in Florida and Harvey in Texas. However, the Category 4 Maria was a different animal. It hit the islands in the middle of the Caribbean and the home of millions of American citizens with no nearby state to provide assistance. After the hurricane passed, it was clear that recovery, no matter how resilient Puerto Ricans may be, would take a very long time.

I have to admit, as a Puerto Rican born and raised American with many relatives “on-island,” this hit me particularly hard. I worked with the community to support the cause and was particularly surprised to learn how many people were evacuating to Orlando and Florida in general. I learned we were receiving approximately 2,000 evacuees daily through the Orlando airport alone, and as of the end of December 2017, we were projected to surpass 250,000 evacuees statewide.

I talked to community leaders and learned how our resources were being exhausted as a result of the sheer volume of evacuees we were supporting. It seemed as though we were hitting a wall as a community, and I desperately wanted to do something… and that is when it hit me.

What if I could build a bilingual job board (English/Spanish) where evacuees from Puerto Rico and the neighboring islands could look for work? The plan was hatched to build a site with job opportunities around all of Florida and other states in order to distribute the evacuee load and service them better. We also realized that with low unemployment, this would be a boon for our communities, adding at least hundreds of millions of dollars in additional productivity which would have been lost if the labor pool was not there.

The results so far have been fantastic. We created
www.LatinoJobsOnline.com, where companies like AutoNation, Florida Hospital and Carnival Cruise Line have supported our initiative by placing job ads on the portal. The portal has thousands of job opportunities from all over Florida — from nurses in Melbourne to a human resources director in Jacksonville, from a sous chef in Palm Coast to a vice president of communications in Orlando, and from sales consultants in Miami to banking customer service reps in Tampa.

Another interesting perspective on www.LatinoJobsOnline.com is the project’s intention. We built the portal to support the Puerto Rico evacuee situation and try to make this a positive outcome for our region. It is, if you will, the social enterprise initiative within our firm. To that end, we have also decided that all revenues in excess of operational expenses will be donated to the Puerto Rico relief and evacuee support funds of Heart of Florida United Way and the Central Florida Foundation.

I have spent a great deal of time on this volunteer activity with the unconditional support of members of my staff and community leaders. The hours have been long, and most weeks, it seems I work on this more than I do my business. But I have been blessed with owning a business that does well and allows me to make time for this initiative. And as I always tell my kids — it is in the act of giving that you receive. What better gift in life than having capability.

Robert Newland, CEO Newland Associates Executive Search, a Career Partners International Firm, can be reached at
(407) 771-4141.

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