Investment Development Conference
OVER 500 ATTEND INTERIOR SECRETARY'S BUSINESS CONFERENCE FOR TERRITORIES
|Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton delivers the keynote address at the first Investment Development Conference for the U.S. Territories, held in Washington, D.C. on September 8 and 9. To her right is Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior David Cohen, American Samoa Governor Togiola Tulafono, Virgin Islands Governor Charles W. Turnbull and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Governor Juan Babauta.
The conference drew companies from 33 states and territories, including California, New York, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, Washington, Hawaii, South Carolina, Georgia and Puerto Rico. Among the industries represented were environmental technology, information technology, construction, education and training, real estate development, tourism, shipping and professional services.
Secretary Norton told the gathering that while each of the territories is unique, they all have common advantages. "All of the territories are located on beautiful tropical islands," said Norton in her keynote address. "Each territory has the unique advantage of being both part of America and part of the region in which it is located. All of the territories have a workforce that's fluent in English, a workforce that's very well trained by the standards of its region. All of the territories have the political stability that comes from the protection of the American flag and the U.S. legal system. All of the territories use U.S. currency. And, judging by the support that each territory has given to this conference, all of the territories are open for business."
Norton said that the Department of the Interior's role was to facilitate interaction, and not to endorse any particular business or any particular project. "Every company, of course, will do its own diligence to determine whether it makes sense for that company to do business in one of the territories," said Norton. "We are not in a position to endorse any particular project or investment opportunity. What we wanted to do was to bring together in one place the people who can get you all of the information you need to make informed decisions."
Also addressing the conference were Togiola Tulafono, Governor of American Samoa, Northern Marianas Governor Juan N. Babauta, Governor Charles Turnbull of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Congresswoman Donna Christensen of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo of Guam, Pedro A. Tenorio, Washington Resident Representative from the Northern Marinas, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior David B. Cohen and Nikolao Pula, Director of the Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs. Governor Felix Camacho of Guam joined the conference in the evening.
The conference featured expert panels on such subjects as investment opportunities in the territories, privatization, infrastructure finance, federal financing programs, tax incentives, education, telecommunications, solid waste, Small Business Association procurement opportunities, the maritime industry, cruise lines, water and wastewater systems and energy.
P. Lynn Scarlett, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Policy, Management and Budget, attended the conference and was pleased with the turnout. "It's great to see so much interest in business opportunities in the territories," said Scarlett. "To get this many companies to a conference on such short notice is almost unheard of, and the Secretary's commitment to this project had a lot to do with its success. This is an excellent opportunity for the territories to showcase their competitive advantages."
Each of the territorial Governors has several private meetings scheduled on Tuesday with potential investors that are attending the conference.
The conference was organized on behalf of Secretary Norton by the Department of the Interior's Office of Insular Affairs. "We were helped tremendously by the research that was done by the M.B.A. students that we sent out to the islands this summer," said Ramona Jones, the Office of Insular Affairs' Special Advisor for Economic Policy. "We were fortunate that the Wharton School supplied us with six excellent students this year. Next year, we look forward to continuing this program with M.B.A. students from schools across the country."