Economic Development Authority CEO Wayne Biggs Jr. told the Senate Committee on Finance Wednesday that their marketing efforts resulted in 22 applications this year for businesses that align with the authority’s plan to attract eight distinct industries to the territory. That is 11 more than last year, he said.
The Economic Development Authority aims to promote economic development in the territory by offering substantial tax breaks in exchange for setting up offices in the territory, hiring at least 10 people, paying certain fees and making agreed upon capital investments.
The applications received by the authority have doubled, he said, an increase he attributed to the success of the entity’s marketing team responsible for generating leads to potential investors that may be willing to migrate to the territory. Specifically, marketers are looking to generate industry leads in agribusiness, coastal and ocean resources, health sciences, light manufacturing, professional and technical services, renewable energy, research and development, and what the authority calls “V.I.-style tourism.”
Biggs said the authority has over 4,000 leads in its customer relationship management system, of which 26 have been identified as “hot projects” representing a potential investment of nearly $119 million into the territory. He added that 10 additional applicants from the last fiscal year have received approval from the authority as well.
“That’s good news for me because we have an opportunity to see some economic development and some additional revenues coming into our coffers as a result of these new applications,” Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory said.
Curious as to when the territory would begin to see any revenue generated from the approval of these applicants, Frett-Gregory asked Biggs about average application approval times. She also said with the closure of the Limetree Bay Refinery, it was necessary to find ways to supplement the lost income.
“An application is usually approved within 60 days,” Biggs said. “However, once the application is done and approved, the entity has a year from the time the chairman signs the application, or the approval, to basically activate their certificate.”
During the budget hearing, Biggs said the proposed $6.7 million for the upcoming fiscal year would also be used to foster a more diverse economy and outlined 15 objectives the authority plans to meet with this goal in mind. The list included the launch of several programs, implementing a global marketing plan, revamping the authority’s website, and modernizing industrial areas.
Though the authority has been marketing aggressively, Biggs said the entity plans to ramp up even more and “put a higher concentration” of effort on select industries.
“In addition to manufacturing and renewable energy, we do a lot of marketing to designated services entities,” Biggs said. “Which is actually the easiest for companies to move a portion of their operation to the territory instead of moving a whole manufacturing plant. We continue to market to those industries, but we just think there is additional concentration that needs to be done. We haven’t done marine and agriculture, that sort of stuff, so we will expand to those areas.”
All of the entity’s plans are part of the larger, 20-year economic plan for the territory called Vision 2040 which was unveiled in late March.
Separately, the fiscal year 2022 budget for the Election System of the V.I. was discussed. The proposed budget for the entity is over $2.7 million.
Sens. Marvin Blyden, Samuel Carrion, Donna Frett-Gregory, Dwayne DeGraff, Javan James Sr., and Kurt Vialet were present for the hearing. Sen. Janelle Sarauw was absent. Additional non-committee members also attended the hearing.