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HomeNewsArchivesDE JONGH SAYS ECONOMY COULD BE IMPROVING

DE JONGH SAYS ECONOMY COULD BE IMPROVING

"We may be on the crest of better economic times," said John de Jongh Jr., president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday.
Addressing the Rotary Club of St. Thomas luncheon meeting at Marriott's Frenchmans Reef Resort, de Jongh said that contrary to published reports in the media. "We cannot lose sight of the fact that times may be getting better."
De Jongh cited the increased visits of cruise ships this season, increased air arrivals, improved real estate sales, the proposed development of Yacht Haven by new owners, and work proceeding at Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas and Enighed Pond on St. John.
According to figures released in July by the Bureau of Economic Research, visitor arrivals for the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2000 were 1.6 million, up 3 percent from 1999, and are expected to reach a record 2.2 million by the end of the year. Visitors in FY 2001 are projected to reach 2.3 million.
However, de Jongh said, this is not to mean the community shouldn't be concerned. He said private sector employment at 27,500 at the end of 1999 is down 2 percent from 1998, and 21 percent from its all time high of 34,700 in 1993. In the 1993 – 1999 period, he said, retail trade employment had gone down by 1,600 jobs.
"Into this mix," de Jongh said, "must be included recently announced statistics showing 41 percent of the 36,000 kids in the Virgin Islands live in dire poverty." He said that is an increase of 6 percent over 1995. The figures are based on a family of four living on an income of $16,000. He continued that, "44 percent of our children under the age of 18, live in a single parent household, compared to a national average of 27 percent."
That's where the chamber and the community come in, de Jongh said. "These are our children, the children of our co-workers." There is a connection between our dwindling economy, and these figures, he said. The statistics come from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands first "Kids Count Data Book."
De Jongh is CFVI board president.
De Jongh also had some things to say about the chamber, and its perception by the community. "We are a business organization," he said, of about 700 members representing over 8,000 employees in the community. "We get a lot of complaints, we can be a vehicle to get across an issue, for attracting anger, or the victim of just plain apathy," he said. "For instance," he continued, "we do not support the mass layoff of government workers, nor did we oppose the use of the Insurance Guaranty Fund as a revenue source for teachers." He noted that in any large organization there are disagreeing positions, "but, you have to be involved."
De Jongh noted some of the chambers' Year 2000 projects which have included:
– Participation in the Economic Recovery Task Force that comprised of the public and private sector, which produced over 160 public sector initiatives and over 40 private sector, generating about $300 million that would impact the General Fund.
– Pushed for the creation of the Cruise Ship Task Force, comprised of the business community, the Senate, the Executive branch, WICO, VIPA and the cruise lines
– Worked with the governor to establish a public/private commission on transportation and public space improvements. Held a workshop which produced over 41 recommendations for action.
– Worked on legislation for revision of the wrongful discharge act and to standardize unemployment insurance
– Submitted legislation on technology for e-commerce within public and private sector.
– Agreed to work with the national American Federation of Teachers to access academy bonds of approximately $900,000 to be used for school improvements (not teacher's salaries).
Another item high on the chamber's list is completion of the Post Office Square, under the Charlotte Amalie 2000 project. There have been some problems with people not getting the bricks they purchased to build the square, which de Jongh said will be resolved soon.
And, of course, there's Miracle on Main Street coming up for Christmas.

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"We may be on the crest of better economic times," said John de Jongh Jr., president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday.
Addressing the Rotary Club of St. Thomas luncheon meeting at Marriott's Frenchmans Reef Resort, de Jongh said that contrary to published reports in the media. "We cannot lose sight of the fact that times may be getting better."
De Jongh cited the increased visits of cruise ships this season, increased air arrivals, improved real estate sales, the proposed development of Yacht Haven by new owners, and work proceeding at Crown Bay Marina on St. Thomas and Enighed Pond on St. John.
According to figures released in July by the Bureau of Economic Research, visitor arrivals for the first nine months of Fiscal Year 2000 were 1.6 million, up 3 percent from 1999, and are expected to reach a record 2.2 million by the end of the year. Visitors in FY 2001 are projected to reach 2.3 million.
However, de Jongh said, this is not to mean the community shouldn't be concerned. He said private sector employment at 27,500 at the end of 1999 is down 2 percent from 1998, and 21 percent from its all time high of 34,700 in 1993. In the 1993 - 1999 period, he said, retail trade employment had gone down by 1,600 jobs.
"Into this mix," de Jongh said, "must be included recently announced statistics showing 41 percent of the 36,000 kids in the Virgin Islands live in dire poverty." He said that is an increase of 6 percent over 1995. The figures are based on a family of four living on an income of $16,000. He continued that, "44 percent of our children under the age of 18, live in a single parent household, compared to a national average of 27 percent."
That's where the chamber and the community come in, de Jongh said. "These are our children, the children of our co-workers." There is a connection between our dwindling economy, and these figures, he said. The statistics come from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands first "Kids Count Data Book."
De Jongh is CFVI board president.
De Jongh also had some things to say about the chamber, and its perception by the community. "We are a business organization," he said, of about 700 members representing over 8,000 employees in the community. "We get a lot of complaints, we can be a vehicle to get across an issue, for attracting anger, or the victim of just plain apathy," he said. "For instance," he continued, "we do not support the mass layoff of government workers, nor did we oppose the use of the Insurance Guaranty Fund as a revenue source for teachers." He noted that in any large organization there are disagreeing positions, "but, you have to be involved."
De Jongh noted some of the chambers' Year 2000 projects which have included:
- Participation in the Economic Recovery Task Force that comprised of the public and private sector, which produced over 160 public sector initiatives and over 40 private sector, generating about $300 million that would impact the General Fund.
- Pushed for the creation of the Cruise Ship Task Force, comprised of the business community, the Senate, the Executive branch, WICO, VIPA and the cruise lines
- Worked with the governor to establish a public/private commission on transportation and public space improvements. Held a workshop which produced over 41 recommendations for action.
- Worked on legislation for revision of the wrongful discharge act and to standardize unemployment insurance
- Submitted legislation on technology for e-commerce within public and private sector.
- Agreed to work with the national American Federation of Teachers to access academy bonds of approximately $900,000 to be used for school improvements (not teacher's salaries).
Another item high on the chamber's list is completion of the Post Office Square, under the Charlotte Amalie 2000 project. There have been some problems with people not getting the bricks they purchased to build the square, which de Jongh said will be resolved soon.
And, of course, there's Miracle on Main Street coming up for Christmas.