La Plaza: Finding Talent In Puerto Rico

Welcome to Alejandro Lazo's weekly blog-within-a-blog on the region's Latino business community; we're calling it "La Plaza."

By Alejandro Lazo

At the Sagragdo Corazon University in San Juan, Alfredo Casta not only honed his skills as a computer programmer but sat through the sermons of a college nun who preached that too many talented students left Puerto Rico for higher-paying work on the U.S. mainland.

Upon graduating, Casta became one of those students, leaving the island for the Washington area 20 years ago, when he was recruited as a techie intern for the Department of Labor. In 1998, Casta founded the Herndon-based government contracting firm Cascades Technologies, which counts Casta's old employer as one of the firm's major clients.

It was not until two years ago, when the Department of Labor had a major job to quickly re-write 32 computer applications -- and recruiting enough workers in the Washington area's tight labor market was proving difficult -- that Casta said he remembered the sermons of his college nun. Casta decided to have his human resources department begin scouting the island for talent.

That is how the company established its Puerto Rico Applications Development and Support unit, and how Casta essentially began outsourcing a chunk of his IT contracting work back to his native Puerto Rico, where salaries are substantially lower than the Washington area and tax incentives for businesses are enticing. Casta now employs 12 full-time workers in San Juan in addition to the roughly 80 workers he employees in Herndon.

The firm's two biggest clients are the Labor Department and the General Services Administration. For the GSA, Cascades helped develop and now supports USA.gov and that site's Spanish counterpart, gobiernousa.gov. Both are intended as one-stop information Web sites for the public to query the federal government. The company has also contracted with the departments of Justice and Defense.

Cascades, named after the Sterling neighborhood Casta lives in, has made both the INC. 5,000 list for the last four years and the Washington Technology's Fast 50 list. Casta said the company expects to make about $10 million in revenues this year and is profitable.

For his Puerto Rico employees, Cascades recruits from University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus and the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico. The arrangement works well for Casta, who travels to the island several times a year for business and sometimes for pleasure. While there is certainly a strong Hispanic contingent, Casta said the firm prides itself in its diverse staff, with workers from Africa, India, Vietnam, Korea and places.

"It is no longer a Spanish-only company without a doubt," he said.

By Dan Beyers  |  August 28, 2008; 2:00 PM ET  | Category:  La Plaza
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Comments

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COLEGIO!!! As a native from Puerto Rico and a graduate from Mayagüez, it makes me very happy to see this company making an effort to create jobs in Puerto Rico.

Best of luck to them!

Posted by: Luis | August 28, 2008 4:44 PM

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