Friday, July 8, 2022
When I first started my business back in August 2009, there were a few hiccups in getting my business started. Thirteen years later, I’m still seeing the same problems that prevent businesses from starting as planned. We still have a long way to go, and I can confidently say that there have been various government agencies working behind the scenes to get things started, but they do need a little push.
Now in its second year, the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers (GCEA) shifted from three committees to seven committees to better address the needs of the Marianas. Joe Guerrero, President of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and I co-chair the Small Business Development and Retention Committee. Our committee is tasked with contributing to the ongoing 10-year economic plan to create a blueprint of what the Marianas aims to achieve by 2030.
Our committee seeks to gain insight into the issues that small businesses face when doing business in the Marianas. As a small business owner, I can speak only about what I’ve been through. Other business owners may face other challenges. It is our goal to get a broader understanding of the state of doing business locally, and how our government can better support business owners and provide a better environment in which we can do business. By improving the climate in which we do business, we can also open doors for aspiring business owners to take the next step.
This year, one of the issues that I’d like to address is what is considered a small business. As of 2017, the Small Business Association term for a small business is a business that has 500 employees or fewer. While this may be relevant in other markets, it is most likely different for us. Another issue that we’d like to address is how to help small businesses access the many funding opportunities available to them.
The past month, with the help of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in partnership with the Saipan Chamber of Commerce (SCC) and GCEA, we drafted and launched the Marianas Business Pride 2022 CNMI Small Business Survey and Friends of Business Summit. We are inviting all small business owners in the CNMI to fill out the survey and help us gain the insight we need to better support them. The survey is open through July 15 at cnmieconomy.com. When the survey closes on July 15, we will then compile the data that will help us address our local issues. Overall, we aim to address issues faced by the many CNMI business owners– micro, small, medium, or big.
I want to emphasize that this survey is completely anonymous and there’s no way that it could be linked back to the respondent. The survey includes questions about business size, number of employees, revenue, and more. From there, the data will be useful in bringing up conversations with the current and future administrations to see how we can better address the issues our small businesses are facing.
I would like to also take this time to personally invite our small businesses to the Friends of Business Summit at the Hyatt Ballroom on July 21 from 12:00 – 5:00 p.m. SBDC, SCC, and GCEA will be hosting an expo that includes lunch and presentations from public and private sectors.
I encourage the small business community to participate in the survey and sign up to attend the event to help GCEA narrow down priorities for the years to come. Our needs are very different from other countries, and as an island nation, our challenges are unique. We are the backbone of our local economy, so let’s join together for the benefit of all small businesses.
I’d like to also thank our partners from the Korean, Chinese, and Filipino associations for taking the time to meet with GCEA regarding the Small Business Summit on July 21. Their valuable input and recommendations have been taken seriously, and we value their partnership in strengthening our local economy. Together, we can!
For more information, visit the GCEA at cnmieconomy.com, on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy), or contact them at email@example.com.
By Alex BK Youn
Alex BK Youn is the president of AC Pacific LLC-I Love Saipan Stores, the largest retail and gift store operator in Saipan. As a major stakeholder in the industry, he serves as a member of the Small Business Development and Retention Committee for 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.