The Commonwealth Development Authority is planning to send a representative to the State Small Business Credit Initiative Pacific Islander Roundtable next month.
The event, to be held on Guam on Feb. 26 and 27 and in Hawaii on Feb. 28, aims to gather SSBCI stakeholders to promote the program to lenders in the region.
SSBCI provides federal funding to states and territories to strengthen programs that support private financing to small businesses and manufacturers. The responsible agency for SSBCI in the CNMI is the Department of Commerce, which has already received $4.35 million, the first of three disbursements of the funds.
CDA is the implementing agency for the two approved SSBCI programs in the Northern Marianas: the loan purchase participation program and the collateral support program.
Manuel A. Sablan, CDA executive director, said that the SSBCI Pacific Islander Roundtable will provide “good exposure” for the Commonwealth's available SSBCI programs, which are still in the development phase.
Sablan said he wants CDA loan manager Oscar Camacho and the secretary or the deputy secretary of the CNMI Department of Commerce to attend the event.
Camacho, for his part, said that the SSBCI Pacific Islander Roundtable will not just be attended by key players of financial institutions but also federal officials from the U.S. Treasury, Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which is in the process of forging a partnership with CDA for its SSBCI programs.
According to Camacho, CDA has met with bank executives doing business in the Northern Marianas in an effort to promote the SSBCI program, which he described as open to both local and foreign entrepreneurs.
While these banks have expressed interest in the SSBCI program, Camacho noted that their agency has yet to get an actual bank on board to have the program fully launched and start stimulating economic activity in the Commonwealth.
Sablan blamed the lack of enthusiasm among banks for the program on the uncertainty of the island economy. This risk, he said, should be covered by SSBCI, which is designed to be bank-driven and is the only program that has funding that essentially becomes the money of the state or territory once deployed since it's not paid back.
“It is our hope that when the federal people come over to Guam and Hawaii, they will help us basically to promote this federal program channeled to states and territories to provide more capital to businesses,” he added.