SOUTH ORANGE — Seton Hall University, which has operated classes and service trips in the Caribbean, is using its resources and connections to hopefully foster business growth and entrepreneurship in a region that's been walloped several times by Mother Nature.

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The Catholic university this month held its first summit on the topic — featuring several speakers with experience in Caribbean affairs — and plans are already in the works for a second summit in 2018.

"It's a region that's so close to the United States that actually needs help in many ways," said Karen Passaro, dean of the Division of Continuing Education and Professional Studies.

SHU students and faculty were on hand for the university's Nov. 3 summit, but the main purpose was the gathering and networking of dozens of business leaders and entrepreneurs who are already doing business in the Caribbean or are interested in starting.

Speakers included the secretary general of Caribbean Tourism Organization, the creator of a tannery in the Boston area and Haiti, and the director of sales for Marriott Port-au-Prince Hotel, among others.

"We did want to focus on how economic development across all disciplines and industries could certainly benefit each of the nations," Passaro said. "We also had a small element, of course, addressing the natural disasters and how to overcome that."

Passaro said it was noted during the event that in some portions of the Caribbean, 95 percent or more of revenue is produced by tourism. In other areas, the industry may be responsible for as little as 3 percent.

According to Passaro, the school's diverse community of students and scholars hail from many parts of the Caribbean, making Seton Hall an ideal location for a conversation meant to strengthen relationships with a beautiful and resilient region.

Anyone interested in getting involved with the 2018 summit can contact

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