Amidst global economic upheavals and a history of significant challenges, the U.S. Virgin Islands is gearing up for a transformative economic journey and the public is invited to get involved and have a voice at the upcoming SEDI-CASE 2023 Winter Economic Summit on St. Croix.
According to organizers, St. Croix, an industrial hub, faces a pivotal moment in the immediate and foreseeable future. As leading economists predict a looming recession threatening the U.S., compounded by disruptions in global supply chains due to conflicts like the Russia-Ukraine war, inflationary pressures are hitting the cost of living and doing business.
Highly reliant on tourism, it’s inevitable that the territory faces substantial risk given that this sector contributes 60-70 percent to the territory’s gross domestic product, said summit organizer Anthony Weeks. Since the 2008 Global Recession, the closure of the Hovensa oil refinery in 2012, natural disasters like hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the territory has weathered significant economic storms. But, this tumultuous journey has resulted in a contracting economy, infrastructural challenges, and a shrinking population, he observed.
In response to these challenges, the much-anticipated SEDI-CASE: USVI Winter Economic Summit scheduled for Dec. 7-10 on St. Croix is set to convene industry leaders, market experts, public officials, and private sector visionaries. This summit aims to foster international trade, boost commerce, enhance capital markets, attract foreign direct investments (FDIs), and integrate innovative technologies to revitalize public infrastructure.
Central to this summit are the unveiling and introduction of four major economic development initiatives:
- Invest USVI (VINYCE, Capital Markets & FDIs): A drive to attract investments and bolster capital markets.
- ARCIPELO TECH: A collaborative ecosystem fostering innovation and technology in the region.
- JumpStart Tourism (Health, Wellness, Medical & Sports): Diversifying tourism with a focus on health, wellness, and sports-related activities.
- Caribbean Americas Single Economy (CASE) International Trade & Commerce: Aligned with the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016, this initiative aims to promote regional economic cooperation.
The significance of this summit lies in its potential to mitigate challenges, diversify the economy, spur growth, and create new employment opportunities, Weeks said. It marks over a decade since the last St. Croix Economic Summit in 2007, which birthed the St. Croix Economic Development Initiative think tank, known as SEDI.
The Winter Economic Summit will confront pressing economic issues head-on, providing a platform to stimulate new industries, attract investment, and foster job creation. Entrepreneurs, business leaders, professionals, government officials, and concerned residents are all encouraged to participate actively. The public is invited to engage and contribute to the SEDI-CASE: 2023 USVI Winter Economic Summit by registering at www.winterSummit.us.
The U.S. Virgin Islands, through this collaborative effort, aspires not just to recover but to forge a path toward sustainable and diversified economic prosperity, according to Weeks, with the goal of fostering hope and signaling a new era of growth and resilience for the local economy.