Gov. de Jongh thanked the St. Croix Chamber of Commerce and the St. Croix business for contributing to St. Croix’s future success. “There is a connectedness within our community that is geared toward success,” he said.
Governor de Jongh discussed the foundation for economic growth that has been laid during his term in office. He reiterated major economic development themes from his recent State of the Territory Address, including the potential for online gaming in the Territory, new high-speed broadband infrastructure, almost-completed plans to replace the Paul E. Joseph Stadium in Frederiksted, a joint project in the works between Renaissance Park, the VI Port Authority and the VI Economic Development Authority, as well as other economic development opportunities that are on the horizon.
Gov. de Jongh drew resounding applause when he mentioned long-term plans to expand the Christiansted boardwalk towards Gallows Bay (toward the east) and the abandoned Ralph De Chabert housing project (toward the west). He also noted plans to dredge the Christiansted harbor to enable small cruise ships to dock there. Dredging of the Gallows Bay harbor will allow St. Croix to host more ships overall, while pursuing smaller ships as well as the biggest ships in the world, which already dock at the Ann Abramson Pier in Frederiksted. Governor de Jongh informed the almost 100 people in attendance that his Administration is also talking with cruise lines about a proposed adventure park near Frederiksted, to gauge their interest and get their feedback on what passengers will like.
The Governor said there was strong interest in the dormant Hovensa refinery and expressed optimism that the property would be put to good use while employing substantial numbers of Virgin Islanders. He projected that business will get a little easier later in 2014, when the V.I. Water and Power Authority finishes converting to propane fuel. WAPA remains steadfast in its oft-repeated promise that the conversion will be complete in the end of the third quarter of 2014, at which time WAPA will experience a 30% reduction in the cost of WAPA’s fuel – which WAPA says will translate to a 25% reduction in the average user’s bill.
During his remarks, the Governor also spoke about the budgetary challenges facing the Government of the Virgin Islands. While noting that additional budget cuts and revenue measure are needed, the Governor also noted the significant reduction in the Government employment and payroll and stated that further reductions in Government employment would be unwise. The Governor also noted the fiscal challenges confronting the Government Employees Retirement System and noted that the recommendations of his Administrations Pension Reform Task Force have yet to be acted upon by the VI Legislature.
The Governor has traditionally spoken at the Chamber’s annual meeting as a way of following up on each year’s State of the Territory Address. The Governor’s remarks on Thursday were his first public remarks since delivering the State of the Territory Address on January 27.
“The St. Croix Chamber of Commerce continues to be honored that the Governor has used our Annual Meeting as his initial St. Croix follow-up to his State of the Territory Address,” said Chamber Board Chairman Mark Eckard.
“Although addressed to the business community, the Governor’s speech today acted as a reminder to all of us on St. Croix that great things lie just over the horizon for our island. Our business community will rebound thanks to the foundation for economic growth laid by the Governor during his term in office,” Eckard added.
The St. Croix Chamber of Commerce announced at Thursday’s Annual Meeting that it has created The St. Croix Chamber of Commerce Annual Scholarship in honor of Governor John P. de Jongh Jr. The Chamber’s announcement of the new scholarship was timed to honor the Governor on his last time addressing the Chamber’s Annual Meeting. The St. Croix Chamber of Commerce Annual Scholarship will be given each year to a senior at the University of the Virgin Islands. The $1000 scholarship will be awarded pursuant to a competitive application process to be completed during the second semester of applicants’ junior year. To be eligible, students must have graduated from a St. Croix high school.
Of the new scholarship, Chamber Board Chairman Mark Eckard stated, “Governor de Jongh has been a great friend to the St. Croix business community and the island of St. Croix generally. It was important to us to honor the Governor on his last time addressing our Annual Meeting. We have been honored and humbled by the Governor’s availability and responsiveness to the needs of the St. Croix business community. Without the Governor’s business acumen, financial talent and work ethic, we shudder to think of where our economy could have been at this point. Knowing the Governor’s devotion to our Territory’s children, we knew he would appreciate that we establish a scholarship for St. Croix college students, to be awarded in their senior year, at a time when many students need financial help to finish their degree.”
The St. Croix Chamber of Commerce also honored outgoing board members Lorine Williams and Linda Bruton for their years of service.
The 2014 St. Croix Chamber of Commerce Board was announced during the meeting. Visit stxchamber.org for the complete 2014 Board Member list.
Eckard welcomed the new members, noting they make an extraordinary commitment to St. Croix by participating in the all-volunteer Chamber board.