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@Work: Penns' Corporation

Oct. 7, 2004 – Those familiar red trucks lumbering along St. John's main roads and byways are part of one of St. John's busiest businesses – Penns' Corp.
The company includes Penns' Trucking Services, Penns' Jeep Rental and Penns' Apartment Rental.
Carl Penn sowed the seeds for the company way back in the 1960s when he started trucking with an old Willys pickup truck. He then bought a lone vehicle to start the Jeep rental business.
In 1976, Penn set up shop on leased property across from what is now the Lumberyard Shopping Complex.
"We had a little office," Jose Penn recalled.
He said that in 1989, the company bought the property. Over the years, Penns' Corp. replaced the old office with a stone building. Penn expects work to finally finish soon on what will be a complex that includes the company's office, 11 units to be used as offices or apartments, and parking.
Carl Penn remains as president, with his wife, Emma, serving as office manager. Two of their sons work in the business. Andrew Penn is the chief operating officer and Jose Penn serves as the chief financial officer. Additionally, Jose Penn's wife, Linda, works in the office.
Jose Penn, an accountant by trade, graduated from what was then the College of the Virgin Islands. In addition to keeping tabs on the company's finances, he finds time to serve as Julius E. Sprauve School PTA president, and on the Board of Land Use Appeals, the Horse Racing Commission, the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center advisory board and the Economic Development Authority board. He's chairman of the University of the Virgin Islands' business department advisory board and is a member of Rotary Club of St. John.
Andrew Penn graduated from Penn State University.
Two of Jose Penn's three children have their hand in Penns' Corp. Jerrel, 17, drives trucks and cleans cars, and J'Nay, 13, "does stuff on the computer." His other son, Joel, 27, is not involved in the family business.
Andrew Penn and his wife, Lisa, have three children. Kamaria is 13, Andrew Jr., is 8, and Shane is 6.
Jose Penn said that his father answered when opportunity knocked. Carl Penn had come from Tortola and Emma Penn from Virgin Gorda looking for a better life. After a series of jobs that included handyman, propane gas delivery man, truck driver, charterboat captain, campground attendant and stone mason, Carl Penn opened his own business.
Jose Penn wishes today's generation of those born in St. John would follow suit. He sees many opportunities in the island's tourism industry, but those who arrive from the mainland often snap them up.
"We have to open ourselves to new ways," he said.
However, Jose Penn said that for tourism to thrive in St. John, the island needs a plan, and Cruz Bay, the island's gateway, needs reorganization. He's called for moving Julius E. Sprauve School out of noisy Cruz Bay to make it easier for students to learn. A proposal to move the school to V.I. National Park land remains in the works.
Jose Penn envisions that the school building could then serve as the government seat, with the Winston Wells Ballfield providing much-needed parking.
He sees the V.I. National Park, which consumes two-thirds of the island's land and is the reason why many people pick St. John for a vacation spot, as both a boon and a bane. While it fuels the island's tourism-based economy, it creates myriad problems.
Since land and property rentals are so high thanks in part to the park's presence, much of the island's workforce hops the ferry from St. Thomas every day. Jose Penn said this means they do not spend their money at St. John businesses.
Jose Penn also sees that many workers get paid in cash. He suggested that they may not be paying income taxes necessary to keep the government afloat.
"Everyone needs to be on the same playing field," he said.

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