Commerce Secretary Sixto Igisomar wants the Commonwealth Development Authority to be involved in setting up a business or investors' center that would market the CNMI to off-island investors.
During the CDA board meeting on Friday, Igisomar emphasized the need to create the investors' center, saying the capacity and resources of his department is “really overextended” at present.
Igisomar said this business center is not part of the “one-stop center” that is one of the items discussed in a bill that seeks to transfer the administrative responsibilities of the Worker's Compensation from the NMI Retirement Fund to Commerce.
The bill is now sitting on the governor's desk, he said.
Igisomar said the Commonwealth's free trade zone law “supposedly and historically” created a board that would market the islands to outside business investors but the board “never took off.”
He recounted approaching the CDA administration “a long time ago” regarding the agency's role in the development of the Northern Marianas but was told that CDA “should just focus on the loans and keep quiet and stay out of any development.”
“I know that this is not true, that's why I'm bringing this plea to this board because maybe we can partner up together with respect to these investments,” he said.
Igisomar disclosed that every time he receives an email inquiry from interested investors from China, Russia, and other foreign countries, what he does is send them two documents: CDA's development business guide and the governor's business guide, which both date back to 2006.
“There's really nothing else I can say because I'm overextended and I don't have a staff that deals with business operations,” said Igisomar, adding that he also forwards these business inquiries to Richard Pierce of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce who also does his best to help.
“I'm hoping we'll get into that business center. I'm not sure how we're going to kick it off but we need to have an office,” said the secretary.
Igisomar cited the importance of having a one-stop center on Saipan, saying it will be convenient to business owners who would not have to go all over the island when processing their permits and licenses.
CDA board chair Pedro Itibus said they are open to further discussions on Igisomar's proposal.
Enforcement task force
Igisomar also disclosed that Commerce is currently in the process of creating an “enforcement task force” that would evaluate government agencies involved in enforcement actions by doing an inventory of certificates, licenses, and permits they issue.
He said the task force committee, to be composed of Commerce, Workforce Investment Agency, Department of Labor, and the Finance secretary, will consolidate this inventory list and prioritize which ones generate revenue for the government.
“It's mimicking what they did about five years ago on the cash receipts BGR task force. It's the same thing, except now we're going to expand it to the entire island and hopefully get an inventory as well of what permits are out there,” he said.
Igisomar said the task force will kick off by Feb. 1 or March 1, 2013.