Gov. Turnbull is in Washington this week at the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, and will presumably attend a key lecture by a Harvard Business School professor, Michael Porter, on how governors can build "clusters of innovation" as part of their economic development strategies. Porter's talk sounds a whole lot more relevant for the Virgin Islands than the one on "The Challenge of Bio-terrorism" that was highlighted in a release from Government House.
The NGA Web site explains that "Clusters thrive in regions where industry, higher education and government work together to build intellectual capital, a highly-skilled workforce, and supportive infrastructure."
We sure hope the governor listens closely to what Porter has to say and brings back strategies for implementing these ideals in the territory. They are far more pertinent to our current state than strategies for addressing bio-terrorism. While signing into law the supporting legislation to begin development of a Research and Technology Park is a step in the right direction, it is only the first step.
The governor and other officials love to tout the economic bonanza from a project of this magnitude, while failing to address its basic prerequisites: a supportive infrastructure, a skilled workforce and a government and business community that can work together.
Do we have dependable utilities — electric, telephone, water — that can support a technology-based economy?
Are we working to build a knowledgeable workforce from elementary school on up?Is it standard procedure for our Legislators and officials to make doing business in the territory a seamless and pleasant experience?
Does our government reach out to business and industry? Does it help untangle red tape?
Do we offer a quality of life that makes people want to move their businesses and families to this community?
Here is what we think realistic answers are at this point.
Our utilities are not reliable. And we are offered excuses and promises instead of solutions.
Our elementary and secondary public schools are a shambles and officials are trying to push the mess under the carpet. We need a clean-up, not a cover-up, and a radical change of approach to education.
The Virgin Islands has a terrible reputation for being weighed down by bureaucracy and corruption where the business of doing business is concerned and it is accepted as "business as usual."
As for quality of life — our homicide rate is five times higher than the national rate, our islands are littered with trash, our landfills are overflowing, our schools are substandard, our police force is demoralized, and even the smallest of groups seem unwilling to work together for the greater good.
The greater good is repeatedly set aside for "I want mine."
We hope that when the governor returns from Washington he will be arriving with inspiration, willingness to change the status quo and a strategy that will lead to real solutions to our very real problems.


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