June 23, 2005 – Members of the St. Croix business community, including Economic Development Commission beneficiaries, met in a Business After Hours sponsored by the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Association on Thursday at the Caribbean Museum Center in Frederiksted. About 75 guests mingled and networked, exchanging business cards and e-mail addresses and munched on a variety of finger food on the buffet table.
Economic Development Authority Chief Executive Officer Frank Schulterbrandt said the informal gathering is a good way to get people talking and exchanging information. "Communication is more effective if it is done one-on-one," he said. Schulterbrandt made a short presentation and then could be seen working the crowd talking with the business owners.
"The EDC tax incentive program is here to stay," Schulterbrandt said. He said some businesses involved in the tax credit program "have been impacted" but "have held on." Schulterbrandt said the participating businesses have invested a lot in the territory, buying homes, enrolling their children in schools, participating in community events and giving generously to local organizations. "They are not just taking the tax incentives and leaving."
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull was in Washington, D.C., recently talking to senators, congressmen, the secretary of the interior and representatives from the Bush administration about the possibility of amending the U.S. government's recent changes affecting the EDC program. (See "Turnbull Reports Progress on EDC While in D.C.")
Chamber executive director Benjamin Rivera told the crowd the chamber is concerned with the problems affecting the EDC program. He said the chamber is acting as a "facilitator" bringing groups together to "work through the issues."
Turnbull seems confident that lobbying efforts in Washington in support of the program are making a difference in the Treasury Department 's outlook on the situation in the Virgin Islands.
Schulterbrandt added on Thursday that the attitude of the community would go a long way to make the program work. He said businesses thinking about investing in the Virgin Islands make it a point to keenly observe life in the islands. "They watch the local television news, listen to the talk shows, talk to taxi drivers and waitresses," Schulterbrandt said. "They want to get to know what really goes on in the island, what the economic climate is like."
Diane Butler, chamber president said the chamber is sending a delegation to Washington to testify at the hearing on the proposed regulations on July 21.
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