Public Finance Authority board members authorized Wednesday a new contract with Marketplace Excellence Corp. to deal with national media relations and coverage of the government’s financial issues and governor’s five-year plan.
Members said during a PFA board meeting on St. Thomas that the government’s communications strategy has so far been “reactionary” and that on matters relating to the financial state of the territory, there is a need to “write our story and make sure that the national media, particularly in the financial markets” understand “what’s going on” locally.
“What this does is demonstrate to the markets that the government is fully engaged in the financial conditions of the territory and that we’re taking real action to address those issues once and for all,” Gov. Kenneth Mapp, who is also PFA chairman, said after the meeting.
“With this, ratings on bonds can go up, investors can understand what the picture is in the Virgin Islands. It affects flights, it affects the federal perception of the territory, and it gives us a chance to be at the forefront talking about what’s going here so that the entire national community understands.”
The PFA and the Virgin Islands Next Generation Network has a $250,000 contract with Westland Strategies LLC for communications consulting and, since the contract is almost up, Mapp said during Wednesday’s meeting that he would let that company continue working with viNGN, while Marketplace Excellence Corp. – which works with the Tourism Department – will take the lead on dealing with communications matters relating to the government’s financial efforts.
The same $250,000 will be budgeted for Marketplace Excellence along with an extra $50,000 – for a total $300,000 – that will come from the PFA’s operating budget. Mapp said Marketplace has a team of five with experience in strategic government communications.
While Marketplace Excellence gets ready to come on board, the government has also put in place a short-term $24,000 contract with Soury Communications to deal with media coverage and financial marketing, according to PFA Executive Director Valdamier Collens.
The PFA board also approved appropriations of:
– $200,000 for repairs to both Government House buildings on St. Croix. Mapp said $300,000 was originally set aside for the project, but since most of the money went to buy new air conditioning units, another $200,000 was needed to complete the repairs;
– $50,000 from the PFA Project Fund for a new community center in Estate Barren Spot on St. Croix;
– up to $810,809 for a new generator for the Golden Grove Correctional Facility on St. Croix;
– $150,000 from the PFA’s private fund to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office for renovations to the Passport Office on St. Thomas;
– and $100,000 for a one-year contract with Atlantic Caribbean Consulting for work on an ongoing St. Croix hotel project. Atlantic Caribbean is familiar with the site proposed for the new hotel and is helping to get a major brand in on the deal, according to Mapp.