July 29, 2004 – The courtyard and the areas around the bar and the hors d'oeuvres table were packed with people at Turtles Deli in Christiansted on Thursday evening. It was hard to tell if people were there for the free food and fellowship or to learn about The USVI Economic Alliance, a not-for-profit organization of Economic Development Commission beneficiary companies and allied members.
One thing certain is that the alliance is growing. When it was organized last March, founders said the group had about 20 members. (See "EDC Companies Form Advocacy Group".) Now it claims about 50.
As Benjamin Rivera, alliance executive director, spoke about the organization Thursday evening, at least three dozen people turned their attention to him.
He said the alliance has five aims:
Advocacy for the member companies.
– Bringing awareness to the community of how EDC beneficiary companies impact the V.I. economy.
– Providing direct benefits to members.
– Compiling statistics.
– Contributing to the community through fund-raising and other activities.
Rivera said the alliance currently is negotiating with the V.I. government to obtain statistics to compile a report on the economic impact of EDC companies in the territory.
One statistic that Richard Difede, Economic Alliance board chair, noted in following up on Rivera's remarks is that EDC companies employ 3,000 local people.
He said the companies are facing a challenge now, citing recent reports of Internal Revenue Service plans to investigate possible tax fraud. See "EDA Chief: 50 Firms Haven't Activated Tax Status".)
Difede also mentioned proposed legislation before the U.S. Senate to change the way eligibility for EDC status is determined. (See "U.S. Bill to Restrict EDC Firms Causing V.I. Concern".)
Concluding his remarks, he told the audience: "You have a choice. We can go back to music, or you can ask questions." There were two brief questions, and then the band began setting up again.
Difede told the Source that he is concerned about the bill before the U.S. Senate because it is so broad. "It doesn't just cover the Virgin Islands; it covers all territories," he said. "Some territories have different concerns than the Virgin Islands."
He said the solution is "local legislation."
Turtles Deli, which has had a restaurant in Frederiksted, recently opened for business in Christiansted as well, at the site of the former Indies Restaurant.
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