The Christiansted Restaurant and Retail Association would like to address the criticism that has recently been leveled at Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards that he has not provided economic leadership or results for St. Croix.
After facing the worst year economically since Hurricane Hugo the lieutenant.governor has been very active and working diligently with the private sector on St. Croix for the revitalization of the island's economy.
The lieutenant.governor has held conferences to attract Economic Development Commission companies in Atlanta, Miami and on St. Croix as well as representing St. Croix at the Economic Development Conference held by the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C.
Currently there are approximately 50 EDC beneficiaries with 51 pending applications for the territory.
In response to the issue of insurance companies the lieutenant.governor even before he was inaugurated immediately flew off island to save two of our insurance companies who were going to leave the territory. Because of his efforts, these companies have remained in the Virgin Islands.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards was instrumental in working with the private sector to get direct charter flights from Denmark to St. Croix. Starting April 3, 2004, 219 Danish tourists will arrive every two weeks on an eight-hour direct flight from Copenhagen to St. Croix.
The lieutenant.governor and his staff have addressed and acted upon many issues put forth by the Christiansted Restaurant & Retail Association (CRRA). Due to the direct intervention of the lieutenant.governor the security cameras which were acquired by a grant written by the St. Croix Foundation were finally installed in Christiansted and Frederiksted. When the cameras in Christiansted were knocked out by a truck hitting a utility pole the lieutenant.governor identified funds and then got the check delivered to have them repaired.
The CRRA has been trying for 10 years to get 2-hour parking in Christiansted to make it more convenient for customers to come into Christiansted to do business. The lieutenant.governor's office in addition to getting the two-hour parking implemented through the cooperation of the Police Department and Public Works Department also arranged to have security guards in the government parking lot from 6 p.m. until midnight Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to midnight on Saturdays and Sundays.
The lieutenant.governor's office has also worked closely with the Department of Tourism to deliver a warm welcome at the Gallow's Bay dock for the cruise ship passengers from the Sea Dream I & II and the two ships calling on Frederiksted. The passengers will be greeted with steel pan music and Cruzan rum punch to help insure a good first impression of St. Croix.
The lieutenant.governor is also working with the Cruise Ship Task Force, which includes other government officials and private sector members to help improve St. Croix's tourism product and marketing in an effort to get the cruise ships to return.
The lieutenant.governor continues to meet with developers to try to bring additional hotel construction to St. Croix.
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards stepped in on behalf of St. Croix to try to establish a medical school to enhance the quality of health care of the island. It is now up to the governor to see this through.
Instead of reinventing the wheel the lieutenant.governor set up meetings with members of the private sector with the head of the organization that helped to revitalize Washington, D.C. which faced many of the same problems that confront St. Croix today.
After four years of neglect and lack of attention St. Croix now has an advocate in Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards. He and his office are spending a considerable amount of time on the many issues facing St. Croix and have been instrumental in making progress for this island and producing results.
I can only speak to the issues of the CRRA that have been addressed. There is still much work to be done but we are starting to see some forward movement for the beleaguered island of St. Croix.
Julia Renfro, president CRRA
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