June 29, 2005 — A bill designed to protect and nurture small business was unanimously passed at Wednesdays session of the Committee on Economic Development, Planning and Environmental Protection.
"Activity is necessary at this stage to stimulate our economy," Lorraine Berry, sponsor of the bill, said. "In St. Croix alone, we are seeing double-digit unemployment figures."
Berrys solution to the problem is the establishment of the Small Business Incubators Act. Just as an incubator helps eggs to hatch, business incubators will help nurture fledgling business and hopefully get them on their feet. The incubator itself is any facility with space available for the business to reside. Inside these facilities, business support services and resources are provided by the management in order to help the business grow.
"Then businesses coming out of the program have a better chance of growing within the community," Berry said. Berry went on to say that three out of every five startup companies fail in their first three years.
"This program will create self-sustaining agencies that will further help to support the creation of new jobs and accelerate economic growth."
Sen. Neville James, an active supporter of the measure, added that dilapidated or abandoned houses throughout the territory can be refurbished in order to provide facilities to house these businesses. "This will aid in cutting costs for the entrepreneur and provide benefits for the community," James said.
Berry, who hopes to establish two incubators on St. Croix and two more in the St. Thomas-St. John district, further proposed that a feasibility study be conducted in order to determine whether the program is viable. An amendment within the bill called for an appropriation of $160,000to be taken from interest on bond proceedsin order to fund the study.
Responding to questions from Sen. Liston Davis, Berry finally explained that the ability to establish incubation facilities does not extend only to enterprises funded by the government. "Private or nonprofit organizations can form incubators as well," Berry said.
The bill was sent to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further action.
Senators present at Wednesdays meeting were: Lorraine Berry, Norman Jn Baptiste, Neville James, Usie Richards, Liston Davis, Craig W. Barshinger and Celestino White Sr.
Senator Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg did not attend.
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