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Charlotte Amalie
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Chamber Members Give Government Low Ratings

Oct. 18, 2004 – Business owners have a dismal view of the economy and government services rendered on St. Croix, according to a survey conducted by the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce.
The survey, released on Monday, revealed a high percent of respondents described the business climate as "bad" and the performance of the department of Tourism as "terrible." Business owners also overwhelmingly wanted an elected attorney general and almost unanimously called for a reduction in the numbers of senators.
Samuel J. Baptiste, chamber vice president of government affairs, designed the survey. Baptiste said it was important in an election year for chamber members to express their views on the economy and business climate on St. Croix.
In the area of economy, 58 percent of respondents said their business is in Christiansted, 22 percent in Frederiksted and 20 percent in mid island. 49 percent said the present condition of the economy in St. Croix is "bad", 23 percent said "very bad" and 13 percent said the economy is "terrible."
When asked if the conditions of the St. Croix economy are directly related to the actions or inactions of the Legislature, 82 percent said yes, 8 percent said no, and 10 percent said they were not sure. Asked if the present conditions are directly related to the actions or inactions of the Turnbull/Richards administration, 82 percent responded yes, 9 percent said no, and 9 percent were not sure.
Ninety-six percent of St. Croix businesses support the EDC. Fifty-three percent do not believe there is widespread abuse of the program, however 78 percent believe the EDC program is in need of minor reform. Eighty-four percent believe that St. Croix is better off because of the EDC program.
The performance of the Department of Tourism drew the most barbs from business owners as 48 percent rated its performance as "terrible." Forty-six percent think Tourism should spend more money on TV advertising and 26 percent want the department to explore new markets.
Although 84 percent think the police department is not providing adequate support to the St. Croix business community, that percent was tempered by the response of 85 percent of business owners who believe the police department does not have sufficient officers or resources to address the needs for the community. Fifty-three percent believe the police town meetings are valuable to the community.
A whopping 91 percent of respondents do not believe the Department of Education is using its budget to effectively educate our children. And, 55 percent don't think the Legislature should have a more active role in how the DOE spends their allotment.
Ninety percent of those responding support a CEO. Seventy percent support an elected attorney general. And, 95 percent supports legislation to reduce the legislature.
Baptiste said some of the survey results were unexpected. He pointed to the responses to the state of the economy and its effect on individual businesses. "Most of the businesses said business is 'bad' or 'very bad.' At the same time, 30 percent said their business is doing well." Baptiste said. "It's a combination of surrounding factors. In this economy, as long a people are 'breaking even' they would report they are doing good, but at the same time the profit margin is not as high as most would like it to be."
Baptiste also noted there is a direct relationship between several businesses and the EDC beneficiaries. "A lot of members are servicing the EDC companies and that has increased business for them," said Baptiste. "If the EDC were to pull out several businesses will feel an immediate decrease in profits," Baptiste stated.
Chamber Board member and former commissioner of Labor, Carmelo Rivera called the "survey, interesting, useful and insightful."
"Obviously the business owners are pointing to an environment that is business hostile, said Rivera. "We all need to be asking, what can we do to make it more business friendly?"
According to Baptiste the survey will be used to formulate questions for the chamber's upcoming candidate forum.(See Chamber Sets Candidate Forums).
The forums will be held from 6 – 10 p.m. on Oct. 22 and Oct 25 at the St. Croix Educational Complex.
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