Although Hurricane Irene kept some notable attendees away from the first full day of the fourth annual CaribNews Multinational Business Conference on St. Croix Friday, it still had "the right people at the right place at the right time."
The aim of the conference, being held at the Sunterra Carambola Resort, is to bring together prominent African-American and Caribbean business people to discuss technology and how it can bridge the gap between the U.S. and the Caribbean. This year’s gathering includes a dozen members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Several lawmakers, including Reps. Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel, couldn't reach St. Croix because of Hurricane Irene's closure of Miami International Airport.
Still, there were plenty of powerful and influential speakers on hand, including David Jefferson, president of AT&T’s Atlantic States Local Services Organization, and Percy Sutton, founder of Inner City Broadcasting.
Both men said it was important for younger people of color who are climbing the corporate ladder to success to remember to pull along others from their communities.
"We are surrounded today by incredible individuals," Jefferson said. "This is the right people at the right place at the right time."
Jefferson said the digital revolution isn’t just about computers and fiber optics, but "about people."
"Number two, it must be for everyone. And number three, if people of color work together they will be able to extract more out of this special time than if we work alone."
Jefferson said that one quarter of people who use the Internet use it to make purchases. He also said that within the next few years, 60 percent of the nation’s job opportunities will require computer skills.
"This digital revolution must be for everyone, regardless of race, regardless of creed, regardless of color," Jefferson said, adding that the act of "redlining," where companies select only affluent areas to service, cannot be afforded.
Gov. Charles Turnbull noted the need for the Virgin Islands to be involved in the quickly changing world of technology.
"We in the Caribbean … must be able to recognize the opportunities in front of us," he said.
Karl Rodney, publisher of New York-based Carib News, said the aim of the multinational conference is to bring together movers and shakers from the Caribbean and the United States to help develop the emerging markets in the region. The territory, Rodney said, is in a unique position to be a bridge between Caricom and the African-American business community.
Corporations like AT&T, Coca-Cola, Western Union and Lucent Technologies have participated in the past three conferences in Jamaica, Barbados and St. Lucia.


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