After last weeks painful headlines, I thought it prudent to pen this letter to help understand, heal, and move forward. While the story certainly appears tragic and even familiar in some ways I will attempt to recast these events in a different manner so we may take stock of what is still very good about St. Croix:
The Stanford People
No matter what happens, we should keep in mind that the most of the local Stanford employees – many of whom are long time Virgin Islanders – are high quality citizens who will be affected more than any of us could imagine. We should reach out to them and not let these events paint these good people in a poor light they will need our help to recover and move forward.
Perhaps it is unwise to assume eventual outcomes as it is possible that some of the Stanford assets and companies may eventually be resurrected in some form which could still provide value to the Virgin Islands to write them off now especially the good people who work there would be a shame. Those that may have done wrong will face plenty of judgment we need not add to it.
Affect on the EDC Program
Even though Stanford was never issued an EDC certificate we should fight against the negative impressions created by mistaken associations. This program does not solely enrich participants at the expense of the average Virgin Islander and the general fund. Instead, the aim of the program is to attract businesses and investments that would never make competitive sense otherwise due to our higher costs versus other locales. These companies provide jobs, services, charitable contributions, and significant territory-wide spending power that raise the standard of living for all. They also provide a concrete reason for talented Virgin Islanders to stay and succeed at home. If we give up on the program now we will lose the most valuable tool for economic progress outside of our own hard work.
Lessons of Stanford
Just as there are no short cuts in life there is no single golden arrow that will solve all that we face. As such, the positive change we seek will transpire only if each of us endeavors to do our best to improve our families, businesses, organizations, and community. If we do good things will continue to transpire in St. Croix and the Virgin Islands one at a time but they must first start with each of us.
Positive Evidence so Far
Our work is already paying off – look at where we are today versus yesterday:
· Lower energy costs from lower gas prices and power bills have significantly raised our standard of living by releasing millions of dollars per month back into our economy in terms of increased disposable income and savings
· Solid progress has been made towards our first new hotel-resort in decades in the form of Williams & Punch with others waiting in the wings
· Cruise ships now grace beautiful Frederiksted pumping millions of dollars into our economy
· Through the efforts of the Department of Tourism, St. Croix's image has been rejuvenated and much of our previously lost airlift has returned
· The New Island Crossing development will bring new retail, jobs, and affordable housing
· New sources of general fund revenue, jobs, and world-wide brand awareness are on their way with this year's ground breaking of the Diageo Captain Morgan Rum distillery
· Through the efforts of our Governor and Delegate to Congress we have secured a huge chunk – $244,000,000 in Federal Stimulus funding
· Strong leadership by our Governor in conjunction with the Legislature has made significant progress in improving our Government and making it more transparent and accountable than ever before
· Agriculture is making a strong and sustained comeback allowing us to buy garden fresh and fruits and vegetables at competitive prices from our local farmers keeping dollars and creating additional economic development right here in the territory
· The recent energy crisis has prompted our Government to move forward with exciting new initiatives that will eventually reduce our reliance on expensive fossil fuels while addressing island waste issues
· Our conservative banks remain strong and ready to conduct business
· Our economy continues to diversify likely portraying future stability and growth
· We enjoy and celebrate some of most intelligent, creative, friendly, resilient, dedicated, loyal, and hard working people anywhere
Are we better off today than last year? Yes, I believe we are. The old leveraged economy was not sustainable and besides, St. Croix never had a fair shake in it. Today, as we move into what will become the New Economy thanks to our fundamental strengths we stand on equal footing with many around us.
What makes us different is that our resolve remains strong because we will not utilize these setbacks as an excuse to languish and lament but to use our strengths to achieve further progress for St. Croix and the Virgin Islands.
Editor's note:Omer ErSelcuk is the third term Chairman of the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce and CEO of Seaborne Airlines. He holds a Masters in Business from the University of Missouri and Bachelor of Aviation Science from Purdue University. Mr. ErSelcuk resides on St. Croix, which has been his home for over eight years.
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