The Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers, CNMI Small Business Development Center Network, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce welcomed business owners and managers from 60 local businesses at the Marianas Business Pride’s 2022 Friends of Business Summit last Wednesday, Aug. 10, at the Taga Hall, Saipan World Resort. Over 100 attendees participated in the summit conversations and received insight into various funding opportunities available for businesses.
The MBP Friends of Business Summit and Survey were developed by GCEA’s Small Business Development & Retention Committee chairs Joe Guerrero and Alex Youn to better understand the needs and plight of small business owners in the CNMI. The committee aims to improve the processes to start and maintain thriving businesses in the Commonwealth.
Attendees at the summit received the MBP Friends of Business Survey results.
The survey polled small business owners and managers from throughout the CNMI to gain insights into how the CNMI can improve the business startup process and provide better overall support for businesses. The survey asked 23 questions. Responses were received from Rota, Tinian, and Saipan.
Matthew Deleon Guerrero, GCEA Fiscal Economic Diversification Committee chair and regional director of ARI Ltd., aided in the survey’s development. “The survey asked relatively simple questions in an effort to establish a good picture of our small business community and what their defining characteristics are at this stage in the economy,” he said. “Some of the useful data we shared today included an assessment of financial resources used among existing businesses. We also gained good insight into their challenges in obtaining external finance.”
Deleon Guerrero added, “More broadly, if we ask these questions consistently over the next few years, it will give the CNMI a critical data point to analyze the impact of policy changes or to determine how large developments in the economy affect smaller businesses.”
Summit speakers included the CNMI Small Business Development Center Network, the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the CNMI Bureau of Military Affairs Economic Development Program, the Commonwealth Zoning Board, the CNMI Department of Labor, the CNMI Department of Commerce, the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority, and the Office of the Governor.
Another highlight of the summit was the announcement of the BOOST Program by the Office of the Governor. The BOOST program offers support for CNMI businesses and nonprofit organizations through grants and business coaching. Provided by the CNMI Office of the Governor, CNMI Department of Finance, and CNMI Department of Commerce, BOOST Program grants aim to support the viability of businesses and the employment opportunities they provide. More information about this program can be found at boostcnmi.com.
One summit participant, Romeo Herman, owner of Pressure’s On, noted that the summit provided valuable information for small business owners and fellow business owners were welcoming to up-and-coming businesses.
“From the government to nonprofit organizations, I was astounded by how the CNMI had so many programs to help small business owners and starters. I liked how the survey’s statistics were shown so that we could understand it,” said Herman. “Most people think that it is difficult to start up a business, but with all these programs and funding that I was made aware of, I’m out of that statistic margin now. Thank you to the summit and the supporters.”
Additionally, Herman looks forward to seeing other events focus on the launch of small businesses. He noted that he sees potential in what the CNMI offers.“We might be a micro speck on the global platform, but we do have something to offer like what Rota is doing with its coffee plantation. Its products are sold in stores across the CNMI,” he said. “The CNMI has many bright and young minds that are overflowing with ideas who just need to be pointed in the right direction.”
After many years of experience in the workforce, Herman decided to make the move. “I wanted to start my business because not only do I want to be my own boss, but to let the youth know that we don’t have to do as we’re taught, which is to get a good education and work for a great company. Instead, we could start one ourselves if we have the right resources,” he added.
Herman is a proud Marianas Business Pride Partner and looks forward to seeing how he can best serve the CNMI community with his water pressure business.
The Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers, CNMI Small Business Development Center Network, and the Saipan Chamber of Commerce would like to extend the biggest si yu’us ma’åse yan ghilisow to all business owners and managers who participated in the event and lent their voices to the survey. The partners extend their appreciation to the hardworking staff at Saipan World Resort for making the first-ever Friends of Business Summit a success. Thank you to our partners from Rota and Tinian who made their way to Saipan to participate in this event or joined the livestream through the SBDC in Rota and Tinian. (GCEA)