Good Day my fellow Virgin Islanders, this is Allison “Allie” Petrus, your Democratic Candidate for Governor, speaking to you on the behalf of the Petrus/Sanes team. This week I am presenting the third part of our three-part series on the economy entitled, “It’s the Economy, Period”.
In Part 1 of our series, we discussed and focused and on the basic understanding of the fundamentals of our economy, and the uniqueness of the Virgin Islands economy as a whole.
In Part 2 of our series, we spoke about the important and vital role small businesses must play in the recovery and growth of our local economy.
I stated at that time the fact that our Virgin Islands small businesses account for over 70 percent of all local businesses in our economy, which is of tremendous importance as we continue our overall recovery process.
During those same discussions of Part II of our Series, I introduced to you a scaling concept for an incentive program to help promote new small businesses growth in the territory that calls for start-up small businesses to pay a reduced gross receipt tax rate of 2% in year 1, 3% in year 2 and 4% in year 3.
I also revealed how this would not affect the existing bond obligation that is tied to gross receipt taxes. Further, I explained how this scaling, or graduating tax concept, is important when it comes to small businesses because it does not only give incentive to those start-up businesses, but also provides a fighting chance at surviving the most difficult period of their existence, which historically, the first three years.
An equally critical component of our economic platform, that I discussed was the creation of the Office of Business Development in the office of the Governor. This Division will be responsible for facilitating the growth of small businesses by removing bureaucratic road blocks that currently exist within government agencies.
Senator Sanes and I have committed, to drastically reduce the time it takes to receive business licenses, and permits, and ensure that these areas will be treated as Revenue Centers.
Today, I want to further explore the fundamental, and incredibly important, question: Who do you trust to return the Virgin Islands economy back the full potential and return us to the level of high productivity?
Who do you trust to make these critical decisions to put our Virgin Islands back on the right path?
All Economic indicators currently tells us we’re moving in the wrong direction.
2015 to 2016 Corporate Tax revenues show a 35 percent decline. This was a significant decline in our Overall Economy, well before any of the storms struck our territory.
The Mapp Administration was handed several shovel-ready projects, which they chose to stop – the Pearl E. Joseph Stadium, the Long Bay Landing and the Charlotte Amalie Downtown Main Street project. These Projects were all designed to generate revenues, which were, and are, still badly needed.
It is one thing to articulate, or to be called a good orator, but it takes real leaders to get the job done!!
On day 1 of the Petrus/Sanes Administration, we will reactivate the development of the Long Bay Landing that was stopped by Governor Mapp.
Two major cruise lines (Disney and Norwegian) were prepared to invest in this project we will look to re-engage them (or others) to help make this project a reality.
With such projects, our economy sees a multiplier effect: our taxi drivers see more passengers, our local businesses will be supported by more visitors, and our local restaurants and attractions will see more activity that will bring new monies to our shores.
We will also make the completion of the Downtown Charlotte Amalie Main Street project a priority. The way that the downtown Main Street Community has been treated has been completely disrespectful.
With such projects, we need the right leadership that understands how these projects affect the overall economic chain as well as our Virgin Islands Community At-Large.
Once again you must ask yourselves: Who do you trust with the power to make these important decisions to get these things happen?
An Administration that has made one outlandish claim after another but delivered on little, to nothing, of its promises to our people? An important note, the Virgin Islands has slipped to number 6 in tourism ranking while places like St. Martin and St. Kitts have surpassed us. It could not be clearer – the Virgin Islands desperately needs Real Leadership once again.
The Petrus/Sanes team will also prioritize the dredging of the Gallows Bay Harbor. This would also allow for small boutique ships to enter the Christiansted Harbor.
At the same time, the Petrus/Sanes administration will examine the plans already on the books to relocate the cargo activities from Gallows Bay to the South shores of the Molasses Pier, which would even allow water sports businesses to be conducted in the Christiansted Harbor.
What is so amazing about some of these projects that I have listed is that the Port Authority currently has the monies, for some three years now, to get this done.
A Petrus/Sanes administration will also incentivize and further encourage the development of small boutique hotels in the downtown centers.
We will also lease out all government owned buildings not being used, especially in the downtown areas, for the development of mixed-use projects with commercial businesses downstairs and residential units upstairs.
These activities will bring energy to the downtown areas because people spend where they live.
When these activities take place, they create businesses that put our people to work, and hence pay taxes to our government and General Fund.
Which once again, brings us to the questions: Who do you trust to make things happen?
Our EDC incentive program is one of the best, but we have watched the number of applicants gone from close to 50 down to less than 5, based on the latest numbers.
We have watched this Administration notify EDC applicants of their benefit package denial in the public media, adding further insult. It is disrespectful, but equally important, it sends the wrong message to other perspective applicants who would want to come to the Virgin Islands.
With our creative energies, the Petrus/Sanes team will incentivize and create a business climate to not only attract investment, but to retain it, and build upon it.
One of the greatest indicators of a declining economy is population loss, or shrinkage. This is important because as your population goes, so does your tax, or revenue base.
The last census in 2010 revealed a population close to 107,000 citizens. In 2015 and 2016, the Bureau of Economic Research showed declining population numbers of around 97,000. That’s a loss of 10,000 citizens.
This is the most frightening indicator because it means that not only our tax base, but our local talent is also leaving.
This is a critical reason why we must turn around our economy and create opportunities to bring our talent back home.
The Petrus/Sanes Administration will make a concerted effort to encourage Virgin Islanders abroad to seek employment back at home with our Administration to make a difference in turning the Virgin Islands economy around.
Managing a budget where 55 percent of total revenues, or $17.5 million dollars bi-weekly, goes toward maintaining payroll comes with an awesome responsibility of ensuring people get paid at the end of every two weeks cycle.
Therefore, it’s the responsibility of the Governor treat all our revenue generating offices as revenue centers, with the goal of optimizing their performance to support the government.
The Petrus/Sanes team understands this on the macro level and are ready to do this job. The question you must ask: Who do you trust to turn around this economy? Who amongst us, the candidates, has a proven record of creating jobs and innovating change?
There’s only one right Team that can get this done – The Petrus/Sanes Team!!
Until Next week, same place – same time, Believe…And We Will Turn Our Islands around for All of Us -One Business at a Time!!!
All In, All In, With Petrus/Sanes!!