Friday, September 10, 2021
In late August, we received the great news that the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration awarded a $19.6 million grant to the CNMI Department of Finance (DOF). The grant will be used to build a new Economic Business Center for the Marianas and to acquire a new financial management information system for DOF.
In the next two to five years, we are going to see major infrastructure improvements, a new Northern Marianas College complex, a new Hopwood Junior High School facility, hundreds of new home construction and renovation projects, and other typhoon-recovery projects. In addition, a new Oleai Sports Complex, also funded by EDA, is among the projects list. Having available resources and professional services are critical to fast-tracking the delivery of these important ventures.
In The Marianas, starting construction projects or opening new businesses can be challenging due to the lengthy process to complete all the requirements, particularly in the permitting process. Working in tandem with the Infrastructure and Recovery Program Office, the Office of Planning and Development, the Department of Finance, and other relevant government offices, the establishment of the Economic Business Center and the development of a coordinated and modernized system to handle business transactions will streamline the permitting, procurement, and contract management processes.
The timely receipt of the EDA grant will allow our government to hire additional qualified technical staff to work at the Economic Business Center and agencies. These resources will further build local capacity and encourage people with experience and expertise to stay in the islands and help our recovery efforts.
While we continue to work hard on tourism resumption efforts and prepare for the safe return of our tourists and business visitors, it is important that we do our best to get projects off the ground at the soonest possible time and bring people back to work, help workers meet their families’ needs, and get our economy back on track.
The creation of the Economic Business Center will also play a significant role in our efforts to promote economic diversification in The Marianas. The Commonwealth Economic Development Authority, the primary agency tasked to promote the Marianas as an investment destination, needs an edge to persuade legitimate investors. Easing the process of doing business in the islands will help.
At this time and long after, businesses will be looking for ways to save time and money when starting up a new venture. They would prefer to utilize the online platforms instead of going through the traditional and complicated paperwork. They would want to get away from long lines and back and forth trips from one office to another to get the necessary documents submitted.
The EDA grant and the projects it will support will help fast track local recovery efforts, mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic, and provide these long-overdue services. We are very fortunate to be given this opportunity. More importantly, we just received the resources we need to bounce back and improve the quality of life of the people in The Marianas.
For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By MIKE SABLAN
Mike Sablan is the Vice President of Triple J Enterprises, Inc. and chairperson of the Domestic Policy and Recovery Committee of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. As an advisory council for Gov. Torres and Lt. Gov. Palacios, the GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all residents.