March 29, 2004 — Companies receiving benefits from the Economic Development Commission now have their own "voice" to air their concerns. After 18 months of planning and coordination, a small group of EDC beneficiaries has united to form the USVI Economic Alliance.
Benjamin Rivera, executive director of the alliance, said Monday that the nonprofit organization was formed for the benefit of all EDC companies.
Since the organization's debut on March 12, there has been a slight increase in membership, Rivera said.
At the press conference launching the alliance, Board Chairman Frederick Handleman said the organization's mission is to "promote and foster economic prosperity in the territory." Handleman added that membership in the organization was open to all EDC companies.
On Monday, Nadine Marchena, assistant director of the EDC, said 98 companies are receiving tax benefits from the EDC. Of that number, about 20 are part of the alliance.
"Members continue to join as we go along," Rivera said. "We are certainly increasing our numbers and getting those who have not joined to do so." Rivera would not specify the names of the companies, however.
Since the inception of the Economic Development Program in 1972, this is the first time beneficiaries have come together to form an advocacy group.
Membership in the alliance comes at a cost of $1,000 in annual dues. Non-EDC companies with an interest in issues relating to the commission can join the alliance for $500 annually. The group also accepts donations.
The nonprofit organization has five primary areas of focus: public awareness, information, advocacy, community action and direct member benefits.
At the March 12 conference, Handleman said direct member benefits may include reduced rates and expanded benefits in health insurance, life insurance and retirement plans.
The board members of the Alliance are: Handleman; Richard Difede, vice chairman; Richard Moman, secretary; George Gifford, treasurer; and Trudy J. Prior, Paul Saunders and Steve Lambert.
At the alliance's initial press conference, reporters were not given the opportunity to ask questions. Rivera later apologized for that decision.
"Our future efforts will be guided by a courteous, professional relationship with all media and openness to their inquiries," Rivera said in a written statement.
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