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Los Angeles Conference Gives Islands Chance to Shine

Oct. 4, 2004 – A two-day conference held by the Interior Department on Sept. 23 and 24 in Los Angeles gave the territory a chance to showcase its strengths, said several of the 33 participants from the Virgin Islands.
The conference brought together businesses and government officials from the Virgin Islands as well as the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. This is the second year the Interior Department held the conference.
The 33 V.I. businesses and government agencies, listed on a roster supplied by the Interior Department, were among the approximately 1,000 who attended.
St. John publicist Kim Lyons, who owns K. Lyons and Co., said she went hoping to make contacts with companies that want to set up business in the territory.
"I would act as a liaison and smooth their way," she said.
Nothing materialized at the conference, but she said she's following up on contacts made at the conference in hopes of enhancing her business.
She said it was also a good opportunity to see how the Virgin Islands presents itself.
While agencies like the V.I. Port Authority, the V.I. Water and Power Authority, the Waste Management Authority, the University of the Virgin Islands Technical Park, the V.I. Tourism Department, and the territory's Economic Development Authority were all on hand to outline what the territory has to offer, Lyons said she'd like to see more potential investors attend.
Fredrick Handleman of Blue Water Management in St. Croix said the conference served to let potential investors know that despite the recent bad press concerning the territory's Economic Development Commission tax benefits program, the Interior Department supports the program.
However, he said that in talking to those at the conference from the mainland, he learned that they were interested in development opportunities even without the EDC package.
"A lot of people didn't realize the potential the Virgin Islands had," he said.
Handleman said that he was able to make contacts in the Interior Department that will help Blue Water, which is an EDC beneficiary company.
St. Thomas Realtor April Newland served on a panel of people who ran successful businesses in the Virgin Islands or the other U.S. territories.
"And I had a couple of meetings talking with people about real estate," she said.
She said people seemed sincerely interested in doing business in the Virgin Islands.
Newland said the conference was well worth her airfare and hotel expenses.
St. John resident Jose Penn, who serves on the EDA board, said it's too soon to tell what deals will be made, but the conference provided an opportunity for investors to get in touch with the territory's government officials.
He said government officials spoke about the territory's great telecommunications ability and its well-educated and friendly workforce.
"But we need to make sure these things are so," Penn said.
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