June 20, 2004 – As a follow-up to last September's first-ever conference on investment and development in the insular territories, held in Washington, D.C., the U.S. Department of the Interior has planned another such gathering for this fall, in Los Angeles.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton will host the second conference, set for Sept. 23 and 24 at the Marriott Hotel in downtown L.A., as she did the first one.
It will provide networking opportunities for "the seven island jurisdictions for which the department has responsibility," a release from Interior's Office of Insular Affairs states. The seven are the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The islands "offer American companies excellent contracting opportunities," Norton said in announcing the conference. She stressed that Interior's role is to facilitate interaction and the exchange of information that might lead to business dealings, not to support any particular projects.
"Every company will have to do its due diligence to determine whether it makes sense for that company to do business in the islands," she said.
Norton said the hundreds of millions of federal dollars flowing into the insular areas each year create major contracting opportunities. "We want to make sure that American firms know about these opportunities so they can win their fair share," she said.
"The federal government recently agreed to send $3.5 billion in grants to the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia alone over the next 20 years," she said.
The conference held last September was for only the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Marianas. (See "V.I. Officials Take Advantage of D.C. Opportunities".)
Attended by more than 500 business people from 33 states and territories, it featured a series of panel discussions on various aspects of investment and development, including privatization, infrastructure, financing, tax incentives and small business procurement opportunities. Presenters included 14 representatives of the V.I. business, government and academic communities. (See "V.I. a Major Player in Investment Conference".)
The businesses represented included environmental technology, information technology, construction, education and training, real estate development, tourism, shipping, energy and professional services.
The 2004 conference, Norton said, will present a number of possible opportunities for win-win situations. "If, for example, a California-based global hotel chain expands by building resort hotels in the island," the release stated, "it will create jobs in the islands and opportunities for U.S.-based contractors. The expansion of the business should also create jobs and prosperity back in California."
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