Friday, May 27, 2022
Going into the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority's (CEDA) as the first Economic Development Manager, my main goal is to pave a path for future investments in the Marianas. When my role was envisioned by the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers (GCEA), the Council saw a need to have a dedicated person and department that would invite ideal investors willing to partner with the Marianas to meet our needs. They recognized that long-term, quality investment would improve our quality of life in the islands– which I wholeheartedly agree with this vision. When I took this position, it was with the confidence and excitement that this new role could make lasting contributions by improving our way of life for generations to come.
This strategic approach to investing requires that I assess what we have to offer potential investors and how we can be more attractive as a destination. One of my first tasks is to define what economic development means for the Marianas. Most people interpret economic development as attracting only large companies that bring in large construction projects. While this is ideal, as they tend to create more jobs, realistically, economic development usually means smaller, higher quality, targeted projects that help to improve infrastructure, standards of living, overall well-being, education, and job opportunities.
From an outsider’s perspective, we have some work to do to beautify the CNMI. Incentives for businesses to improve their properties or address blighted or abandoned buildings will contribute to the overall visual appeal of our islands. Businesses should consider joining GCEA’s Marianas Business Pride program, which will focus on commercial beautification. As a community, we should keep in mind an investor’s perspective and see where we can make effective improvements.
Another GCEA initiative I support is the development of a Marpi Visitor Center. Everyone loves Marpi, it is a natural location for a visitor center. When I bike through Marpi, I can envision how a visitor center would elevate our visitors’ experiences by providing a hub where they can learn about the CNMI, its history, and all the hiking and biking trails one can do on each of the islands. It can also serve as a cultural hub where visitors can directly experience our hospitality and traditions.
Projects like this that provide more attractions for our residents and visitors will promote inter-island travel that can spur the economies on each island. The development of more trails for hiking and biking also supports a healthier community. It will encourage us to explore Saipan, Rota, Tinian, and the Northern Islands and create fundamental opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the islands.
While we move forward, it’s important to also learn from our past. We are taught at an early age to respect the ocean and land, and in doing so, it will give us sustenance. During the pandemic we learned a lot about supply chain issues and food shortages. As a region dependent on food imports, we must address our food security – a issue that is vital to our health and well-being. We should find ways to encourage and promote small-scale farming and fishing. Along these lines, comes developing soil and water programs that are necessary to produce nutrient-rich foods. Supporting our local farmers and fishermen will reduce our carbon footprint and lessen our dependency on imported food. Let’s support our small local producers so they will have the opportunity to supply our community and larger hotel/restaurant operations.
There is so much to do and many issues to address, but these are just some of the ideas that are on my mind.
As I embark on this meaningful work, I want to thank Governor Torres, GCEA, my colleagues at CEDA, and the many people I’ve met (and will meet) for their generous insight and time. The more people I meet and learn about their challenges, the more effective I will become at connecting the right people to collaborate and overcome obstacles, both with investors that are here on island and those that will be. Together we can!
For more information about GCEA’s programs, visit cnmieconomy.com, engage with the council on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dave G. Guerrero
Dave G. Guerrero is the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority's first Economic Development Manager, a role designed to lead economic development efforts for the Marianas. GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all residents.