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HomeNewsArchivesBRYAN PRESENTS MAJORITY'S ECONOMIC PLAN

BRYAN PRESENTS MAJORITY'S ECONOMIC PLAN

Sen. Adelbert Bryan delivered a speech on the economic development plans of the 24th Legislature's majority senators to a meeting of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association on Wednesday night. The text read by Bryan at Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort follows.
AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN IS ALWAYS A COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PLAN
An economic development plan is always a community development plan. The great challenge and benefit of economic development will be to harness consistently greater levels of cooperation from all parts of our community. This coordination is central to development and is the principal tool used by all emerging economies in the process of reshaping their futures. But the opportunity to utilize these resources is itself very important and too often very rare. With the priorities set by the majority of the 24th Legislature there is presently a wonderful opportunity to move the USVI towards our goals for development. Within this plan of the Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection we have attempted to lay a foundation for dialogue, cooperation, progress and sustainable development in the USVI.
Our recommendations are being developed from a set of core issue areas facing the Territory. These are Transparency, Coordination, Conservation, Education, Technology, and Quality of Life. We believe that each of these issue areas, when properly implemented and pursued within the plan, has the significance to resolve a host of problems within the local economy. Moreover, working to resolve each of these issue areas will integrate to create a development product larger than the sum of its parts. Each recommendation made in the plan is intended to build on our effort to resolve the six core issues.
The Action Plan within the development plan has itself been broken into sections. These are organized by the area of their implementation and may work to resolve one or more core issues facing the Territory. The sections are Education and the Workforce, Finance, Research and Planning, Government Efficiency and Fiscal Responsibility, Industry, Tourism, and Quality of Life.
Education and Workforce Development are critical to the sustainability of the plan. Education is more important than any other factor in creating a modern, efficient, growing and prosperous economy. Expanding the opportunities available to the youth of the Territory and reversing our present brain-drain will be critical to our success. To accomplish this we intend to push for a comprehensive review of the USVI curriculum. Giving the necessary attention to our students from the earliest age in the areas of math, reading and writing will begin the transition into an economic development plan with the people power to sustain it. We intend to sponsor an annual Territory wide science fair that will require every student in the Territory to produce a science project. Through restructuring the allocation of public funds toward providing scholarships for students to study on the mainland, the plan can provide our students with the opportunity to build on the skills, interests, and dreams developed in our annual science fairs. It is also overdue that USVI public school students be provided with the structured Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum that is equally important to their development as engineers, scientists, economists, MBAs, CPAs and educators at the finest colleges and universities in the nation. Combined with an initiative to produce computer literacy rates over 90% for the entire Territory and we will be well on the way to helping our students fulfill their potential.
Education builds the resources available to our community. Rebuilding our public libraries will empower all Virgin Islanders by giving VI youth a haven for their young minds. Quality libraries are another major infrastructure resource for community entrepreneurs and organizers.
It is our intention to guarantee these opportunities to learn and develop to all VI youth. By providing jobs for students through resources such as "Youthbuild", a significant effort can be made to change our student's educational opportunities while improving their quality of life. By focusing other social programs around the weekday hours of 3-6 in the afternoon the USVI can make noticeable progress against delinquency in the hours when parental supervision and youth crime are most detrimental to the fabric of our society. We must act if we are to insure that educational opportunities are provided to all our young people.
Workforce Development allows the USVI to match the demands of the developing global economy in real time. There are two initiatives that we believe can accomplish this task given our present resources. First, in order to train an initial pool of local high wage, high tech labor it is our intention to work with the local Workforce Development Board under the Workforce Investment Act and the private sector to determine the most effective areas for training. Training will provide local workers with the skills of the new economy. Second, restructuring the process for matching employers and job applicants at the VI Department of Labor will add another needed reform to our present efforts. In creating an online search driven system for matching workers with employers we will use technology and methods pioneered by internet firms like Monsterboard.com to create a process for matching local workers and employers with the tool of the future, the internet.
The financial sector of the VI economy is significantly underdeveloped. The principal goals in this section include creating a venture capital fair for the Territory, restructuring the process for issuing public debt, working to develop the banking industry, reducing the cost of capital, and performing a thorough examination of the USVI pension system. The Committee is presently speaking with McKinsey & Company about this project of considerable size and importance. The end result is to create a financial sector that is more autonomous and directly oriented to investing in the local economy without limiting the funding alternatives to USVI businesses.
The ability to manage the economy and the development plan is directly related to the ability of the Government to accurately and consistently measure what is taking place in the local economy and community. This will be accomplished by the creation of an Office of Statistics to centralize the collection and analysis of all relevant federal and local data. The office will have a consistent and growing set of pertinent data from each local agency over an increasing period of time. In the attempt to develop the economy it would be beneficial if the Federal Government were to begin including the USVI in the collection of all relevant statistical and social data. This data is crucial to analyzing the economy with more accurate tools and is an important obstacle to properly evaluating the plan and the local economy.
Many of the territory's problems stem from the lack of confidence of our citizens in the quality of the Government's intentions. Transparency restores the confidence of citizens in the actions of their governments. Under our plans for Government Efficiency and Fiscal Responsibility we intend to work for open bidding in the contracting process, the centralization and coordination of the policy and resource planning processes, the streamlining of licensing and registration, and greater equity in sharing the burden of the tax base of the Virgin Islands. These initiatives are targeted not at the Government, but at the inability of citizens to have a strong confidence that the policies adopted by the Government are the result of enlightened research, planning and decision-making.
In the industrial section of the plan we have attempted to illustrate the principal vision of the Committee for Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Throughout the creation of this plan our intention has been to address the absence of an overarching development philosophy in the USVI.
We have also attempted to create a tiered plan capable of making the USVI competitive on the firm, industry, local, regional, national, and international levels.
A major part of the Committee's development plan will include the utilization of industrial clusters and import substitution as industrializing forces on the VI economy. There are several categories to the industry section of the Action Plan. They include Agriculture, Manufacturing, Power Generation, HOVENSA and VI petroleum refining, St. Croix Alumina and VI aluminum production, Recycling and Remanufacture, Trade, Information Technology, Health, Gaming and Internet Gaming. Tourism will be covered separately.
Industrial clusters are purposed to coordinate the efforts of local manufacturers to create or enhance the comparative advantage of their home economy. Through coordination of purchasing, research and other activities it is our intention to create an environment where firms are able to gain scale economies. Clusters are often used to coordinate marketing efforts, operating activities, lobbying initiatives and a host of other industry concerns, all of which contain opportunities for local firms to gain a larger share of the global market for their products. Although there are inherent limitations on VI manufacturing clusters, clusters of IT, internet gaming, data storage, and network management and testing firms can successfully coordinate their activities in providing services, marketing products, and finding venture capital.
Import substitution can also create considerable benefits for the local economy in areas such as agriculture and recycling & remanufacture. It is the intention of the Committee's plan to harness the full agricultural power of St. Croix and St. Thomas by targeting import products for substitution by local producers. Whether through lobbying for federal grants and funding to help our farmers remain market competitive or creating a Board of VI Grocers and Agricultural Producers (VIGAP), VI agriculture must be made a priority in any economic development plan. The committee intends to create the necessary market communication and activity to improve the prospects of agricultural producers while protecting consumers and grocers from higher prices. In the recycling and remanufacturing industry, import substitution can be used to reduce the cost of importing all our products. Where it is determined that recycling is both feasible and cost effective there may be considerable benefits to creating a defined recycling effort in plastics and other materials. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that recycling creates ten jobs for every one job created by landfills. This is only one benefit. If we consider the environmental benefits, reduced costs for transshipping, and the multiplier impact of exporting remanufactured products, the benefits of import substitution in recycling and remanufacturing become all the more clear.
The tourism industry plan for the Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection intends to focus its planning activities in two distinct areas. First, there will be an effort to diversify the tourism product and markets of the Territory. The second effort will focus on the overall competitiveness and efficiency of the Territories tourism industry in general.
Diversifying the industry will be accomplished through the development of cultural and historic tourism. Cultural and historic tourism allows the USVI to compete for summer tourists that presently bypass the USVI for more structured, family oriented locations such as Disney World, the Hawaiian Islands, Washington DC and Colonial Williamsburg, etc. Competing for these tourists is directly beneficial to the USVI because it will diversify the types of visitors we can serve and end the half-year cycle for our present tourism industry. The principal means for accomplishing this will be the creation of a Caribbean Cultural Center on St. Croix. Modeled after the Polynesian Cultural Center and Colonial Williamsburg, the Caribbean Cultural Center will provide a unique Caribbean experience where all the flavors, voices and experiences of the Caribbean will be centrally located and portrayed for the convenience of USVI tourists. It is also our intention to develop the forts of the territory into cultural "Starting Points". The Committee will designate core value cultural and historic locations such as Government Houses, the Old Jewish Synagogue, Lutheran Church, All Saints Cathedral, Fort Berg, the St. John Petroglyphs, the Annaberg Plantation, Fort Frederik and Budhoe Park, and Altona (Frenchtown). These sites are always available, so tourists can visit at their leisure or on guided tours. Through charging a small admission, organizing historical tours and creating minor re-enactments at the forts we can create a major revenue-generating source for the Territory. With the creation of permanent market style kiosks at vendor's plaza on St. Thomas and rest areas in all heavily traveled parts of the islands, our tourists will be afforded a more convenient and comfortable environment. Ultimately, the transition of our cities into historic cities will mean that the "Downtown" experience of the USVI will have begun an exciting and meaningful renaissance.
Plans are being developed to utilize the markets for special events that are already central to the territories success. Increased promotion is planned for all carnivals and festivals of the territory. There are also plans to coordinate smaller events. For example coming to the Virgin Islands is the Tropical Rodeo of St. Croix. The success of combining the Agricultural Fair and the St. Croix International Regatta is a model for future special events. We are particularly interested in developing sports infrastructure to host sports organizations and sporting events such as basketball, golf, and tennis tournaments. The potential of these events must be harnessed. Exposure through having our sporting events nationally televised is also invaluable to our parallel objective to increase the promotion of the Territory.
In order to further diversify the industry the Committee will seek to insure that the convention center being constructed under the omnibus bill is the leading technologically oriented convention center in the Caribbean. Discussions with Innovative Telephone (VITELCO) planners have begun on this subject. The combination of a leading convention center, casino and hotel at a single location, along with the Caribbean Cultural Center will create a new and exciting environment for St. Croix and USVI tourists.
The Committee is also purposed to maintain and increase any competitive advantage of the USVI tourism industry. Aside from diversifying the market for tourism, there are several other initiatives that can harness the countless opportunities at our disposal. Beginning with the repeal of the increased hotel room tax, the Committee will pursue the creation of a highly structured training environment for VI tourism workers. These initiatives are purposed to improve the level of service that hotels are capable of providing. It is important that our hospitality industry be regionally and internationally renowned for just that. In creating targets for increased competitiveness, the Committee will pursue the immediate development of an additional 5000 hotel rooms on St. Croix. We are also setting high goals for year-round occupancy because it will directly benefit the bottom line of our hoteliers. The development of St. Croix into a regional air hub analogous to the WICO cruise ship port on St. Thomas can further provide competitive advantage to the tourist market and to the prospects for St. Croix. In this case, our leadership in one industry may aide the development of another. All of our tourism efforts have been implemented with great success in other communities. The Committee is determined to develop the level of dialogue with the tourism industry about its needs, concerns and plans for the future. Working together towards this tourism plan will move the USV
I towards a much stronger position in the fastest growing and soon to be largest industry in the World.
It is my hope that the ideas and plans put forth here have given you some idea about our plans, and the nature of our commitment.

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Sen. Adelbert Bryan delivered a speech on the economic development plans of the 24th Legislature's majority senators to a meeting of the St. Thomas-St. John Hotel Association on Wednesday night. The text read by Bryan at Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Beach Resort follows.
AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN IS ALWAYS A COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PLAN
An economic development plan is always a community development plan. The great challenge and benefit of economic development will be to harness consistently greater levels of cooperation from all parts of our community. This coordination is central to development and is the principal tool used by all emerging economies in the process of reshaping their futures. But the opportunity to utilize these resources is itself very important and too often very rare. With the priorities set by the majority of the 24th Legislature there is presently a wonderful opportunity to move the USVI towards our goals for development. Within this plan of the Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection we have attempted to lay a foundation for dialogue, cooperation, progress and sustainable development in the USVI.
Our recommendations are being developed from a set of core issue areas facing the Territory. These are Transparency, Coordination, Conservation, Education, Technology, and Quality of Life. We believe that each of these issue areas, when properly implemented and pursued within the plan, has the significance to resolve a host of problems within the local economy. Moreover, working to resolve each of these issue areas will integrate to create a development product larger than the sum of its parts. Each recommendation made in the plan is intended to build on our effort to resolve the six core issues.
The Action Plan within the development plan has itself been broken into sections. These are organized by the area of their implementation and may work to resolve one or more core issues facing the Territory. The sections are Education and the Workforce, Finance, Research and Planning, Government Efficiency and Fiscal Responsibility, Industry, Tourism, and Quality of Life.
Education and Workforce Development are critical to the sustainability of the plan. Education is more important than any other factor in creating a modern, efficient, growing and prosperous economy. Expanding the opportunities available to the youth of the Territory and reversing our present brain-drain will be critical to our success. To accomplish this we intend to push for a comprehensive review of the USVI curriculum. Giving the necessary attention to our students from the earliest age in the areas of math, reading and writing will begin the transition into an economic development plan with the people power to sustain it. We intend to sponsor an annual Territory wide science fair that will require every student in the Territory to produce a science project. Through restructuring the allocation of public funds toward providing scholarships for students to study on the mainland, the plan can provide our students with the opportunity to build on the skills, interests, and dreams developed in our annual science fairs. It is also overdue that USVI public school students be provided with the structured Advanced Placement (AP) curriculum that is equally important to their development as engineers, scientists, economists, MBAs, CPAs and educators at the finest colleges and universities in the nation. Combined with an initiative to produce computer literacy rates over 90% for the entire Territory and we will be well on the way to helping our students fulfill their potential.
Education builds the resources available to our community. Rebuilding our public libraries will empower all Virgin Islanders by giving VI youth a haven for their young minds. Quality libraries are another major infrastructure resource for community entrepreneurs and organizers.
It is our intention to guarantee these opportunities to learn and develop to all VI youth. By providing jobs for students through resources such as "Youthbuild", a significant effort can be made to change our student's educational opportunities while improving their quality of life. By focusing other social programs around the weekday hours of 3-6 in the afternoon the USVI can make noticeable progress against delinquency in the hours when parental supervision and youth crime are most detrimental to the fabric of our society. We must act if we are to insure that educational opportunities are provided to all our young people.
Workforce Development allows the USVI to match the demands of the developing global economy in real time. There are two initiatives that we believe can accomplish this task given our present resources. First, in order to train an initial pool of local high wage, high tech labor it is our intention to work with the local Workforce Development Board under the Workforce Investment Act and the private sector to determine the most effective areas for training. Training will provide local workers with the skills of the new economy. Second, restructuring the process for matching employers and job applicants at the VI Department of Labor will add another needed reform to our present efforts. In creating an online search driven system for matching workers with employers we will use technology and methods pioneered by internet firms like Monsterboard.com to create a process for matching local workers and employers with the tool of the future, the internet.
The financial sector of the VI economy is significantly underdeveloped. The principal goals in this section include creating a venture capital fair for the Territory, restructuring the process for issuing public debt, working to develop the banking industry, reducing the cost of capital, and performing a thorough examination of the USVI pension system. The Committee is presently speaking with McKinsey & Company about this project of considerable size and importance. The end result is to create a financial sector that is more autonomous and directly oriented to investing in the local economy without limiting the funding alternatives to USVI businesses.
The ability to manage the economy and the development plan is directly related to the ability of the Government to accurately and consistently measure what is taking place in the local economy and community. This will be accomplished by the creation of an Office of Statistics to centralize the collection and analysis of all relevant federal and local data. The office will have a consistent and growing set of pertinent data from each local agency over an increasing period of time. In the attempt to develop the economy it would be beneficial if the Federal Government were to begin including the USVI in the collection of all relevant statistical and social data. This data is crucial to analyzing the economy with more accurate tools and is an important obstacle to properly evaluating the plan and the local economy.
Many of the territory's problems stem from the lack of confidence of our citizens in the quality of the Government's intentions. Transparency restores the confidence of citizens in the actions of their governments. Under our plans for Government Efficiency and Fiscal Responsibility we intend to work for open bidding in the contracting process, the centralization and coordination of the policy and resource planning processes, the streamlining of licensing and registration, and greater equity in sharing the burden of the tax base of the Virgin Islands. These initiatives are targeted not at the Government, but at the inability of citizens to have a strong confidence that the policies adopted by the Government are the result of enlightened research, planning and decision-making.
In the industrial section of the plan we have attempted to illustrate the principal vision of the Committee for Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. Throughout the creation of this plan our intention has been to address the absence of an overarching development philosophy in the USVI. We have also attempted to create a tiered plan capable of making the USVI competitive on the firm, industry, local, regional, national, and international levels.
A major part of the Committee's development plan will include the utilization of industrial clusters and import substitution as industrializing forces on the VI economy. There are several categories to the industry section of the Action Plan. They include Agriculture, Manufacturing, Power Generation, HOVENSA and VI petroleum refining, St. Croix Alumina and VI aluminum production, Recycling and Remanufacture, Trade, Information Technology, Health, Gaming and Internet Gaming. Tourism will be covered separately.
Industrial clusters are purposed to coordinate the efforts of local manufacturers to create or enhance the comparative advantage of their home economy. Through coordination of purchasing, research and other activities it is our intention to create an environment where firms are able to gain scale economies. Clusters are often used to coordinate marketing efforts, operating activities, lobbying initiatives and a host of other industry concerns, all of which contain opportunities for local firms to gain a larger share of the global market for their products. Although there are inherent limitations on VI manufacturing clusters, clusters of IT, internet gaming, data storage, and network management and testing firms can successfully coordinate their activities in providing services, marketing products, and finding venture capital.
Import substitution can also create considerable benefits for the local economy in areas such as agriculture and recycling & remanufacture. It is the intention of the Committee's plan to harness the full agricultural power of St. Croix and St. Thomas by targeting import products for substitution by local producers. Whether through lobbying for federal grants and funding to help our farmers remain market competitive or creating a Board of VI Grocers and Agricultural Producers (VIGAP), VI agriculture must be made a priority in any economic development plan. The committee intends to create the necessary market communication and activity to improve the prospects of agricultural producers while protecting consumers and grocers from higher prices. In the recycling and remanufacturing industry, import substitution can be used to reduce the cost of importing all our products. Where it is determined that recycling is both feasible and cost effective there may be considerable benefits to creating a defined recycling effort in plastics and other materials. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that recycling creates ten jobs for every one job created by landfills. This is only one benefit. If we consider the environmental benefits, reduced costs for transshipping, and the multiplier impact of exporting remanufactured products, the benefits of import substitution in recycling and remanufacturing become all the more clear.
The tourism industry plan for the Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture and Consumer Protection intends to focus its planning activities in two distinct areas. First, there will be an effort to diversify the tourism product and markets of the Territory. The second effort will focus on the overall competitiveness and efficiency of the Territories tourism industry in general.
Diversifying the industry will be accomplished through the development of cultural and historic tourism. Cultural and historic tourism allows the USVI to compete for summer tourists that presently bypass the USVI for more structured, family oriented locations such as Disney World, the Hawaiian Islands, Washington DC and Colonial Williamsburg, etc. Competing for these tourists is directly beneficial to the USVI because it will diversify the types of visitors we can serve and end the half-year cycle for our present tourism industry. The principal means for accomplishing this will be the creation of a Caribbean Cultural Center on St. Croix. Modeled after the Polynesian Cultural Center and Colonial Williamsburg, the Caribbean Cultural Center will provide a unique Caribbean experience where all the flavors, voices and experiences of the Caribbean will be centrally located and portrayed for the convenience of USVI tourists. It is also our intention to develop the forts of the territory into cultural "Starting Points". The Committee will designate core value cultural and historic locations such as Government Houses, the Old Jewish Synagogue, Lutheran Church, All Saints Cathedral, Fort Berg, the St. John Petroglyphs, the Annaberg Plantation, Fort Frederik and Budhoe Park, and Altona (Frenchtown). These sites are always available, so tourists can visit at their leisure or on guided tours. Through charging a small admission, organizing historical tours and creating minor re-enactments at the forts we can create a major revenue-generating source for the Territory. With the creation of permanent market style kiosks at vendor's plaza on St. Thomas and rest areas in all heavily traveled parts of the islands, our tourists will be afforded a more convenient and comfortable environment. Ultimately, the transition of our cities into historic cities will mean that the "Downtown" experience of the USVI will have begun an exciting and meaningful renaissance.
Plans are being developed to utilize the markets for special events that are already central to the territories success. Increased promotion is planned for all carnivals and festivals of the territory. There are also plans to coordinate smaller events. For example coming to the Virgin Islands is the Tropical Rodeo of St. Croix. The success of combining the Agricultural Fair and the St. Croix International Regatta is a model for future special events. We are particularly interested in developing sports infrastructure to host sports organizations and sporting events such as basketball, golf, and tennis tournaments. The potential of these events must be harnessed. Exposure through having our sporting events nationally televised is also invaluable to our parallel objective to increase the promotion of the Territory.
In order to further diversify the industry the Committee will seek to insure that the convention center being constructed under the omnibus bill is the leading technologically oriented convention center in the Caribbean. Discussions with Innovative Telephone (VITELCO) planners have begun on this subject. The combination of a leading convention center, casino and hotel at a single location, along with the Caribbean Cultural Center will create a new and exciting environment for St. Croix and USVI tourists.
The Committee is also purposed to maintain and increase any competitive advantage of the USVI tourism industry. Aside from diversifying the market for tourism, there are several other initiatives that can harness the countless opportunities at our disposal. Beginning with the repeal of the increased hotel room tax, the Committee will pursue the creation of a highly structured training environment for VI tourism workers. These initiatives are purposed to improve the level of service that hotels are capable of providing. It is important that our hospitality industry be regionally and internationally renowned for just that. In creating targets for increased competitiveness, the Committee will pursue the immediate development of an additional 5000 hotel rooms on St. Croix. We are also setting high goals for year-round occupancy because it will directly benefit the bottom line of our hoteliers. The development of St. Croix into a regional air hub analogous to the WICO cruise ship port on St. Thomas can further provide competitive advantage to the tourist market and to the prospects for St. Croix. In this case, our leadership in one industry may aide the development of another. All of our tourism efforts have been implemented with great success in other communities. The Committee is determined to develop the level of dialogue with the tourism industry about its needs, concerns and plans for the future. Working together towards this tourism plan will move the USV I towards a much stronger position in the fastest growing and soon to be largest industry in the World.
It is my hope that the ideas and plans put forth here have given you some idea about our plans, and the nature of our commitment.