Blanco intern says the CNMI needs to diversify economic strategy through IT


Xavier C. Ada, a second-year political science and criminology student of the University of Denver who interned with late representative Ivan James Alafanso Blanco, held a presentation yesterday before the House of Representatives on the need for the CNMI to diversify its economic strategy through information technology.

In his PowerPoint presentation in the House chamber, Ada said his presentation is a completion of the late Blanco’s global internship.

“This presentation is in memory of Congressman Blanco. So I’m humbled and honored to be representing him today with the work we’ve done over the summer,” he said.

Blanco, 45, passed away last July 23 of massive pulmonary embolism. He was a member of the 20th, 21st, and 22nd CNMI Legislature.

Ada said Blanco was focused on leveraging talent across the country to aid the CNMI in longstanding issues. Ada said Blanco guided him from beginning to end to make sure that he (Ada) was on track with helping to provide legislation.

He said for a long number of years the CNMI has faced three issues—economy, workforce development and health care—and that he and Blanco did focus on the economic condition within the CNMI and that was the late congressman’s primary concern.

He said his research all point to a need for economic diversification in the CNMI.

Ada said tourism may be the primary economic pillar of the CNMI but this was subject to external forces such as Typhoon Soudelor and Super Typhoon Yutu that happened in 2015 and 2018, respectively. He also noted the infrastructure disruptions, such as the underwater cable break that happened here in the CNMI, the COVID-19 pandemic that has created unprecedented issues affecting the economy, and federal statutory impacts on immigration and minimum wage.

To diversify its Information Technology, Ada said the CNMI has a lot of distinct advantages—it is part of the United States as a territory and has English-speaking population. He said time zone coverages and H-1B exemptions are also part of the advantages.

Interestingly, Ada said, there is a proof of concept already developed and currently working on Saipan. He pointed out that the Latte Training Academy and Intelisecure /Proofpoint partnership are providing 20 full time employees, which are all local hires.

Latte Training Academy is a local entity which helps in providing training for local workers to be put into jobs as well. Proofpoint is a Colorado-based cybersecurity firm that relocated to the CNMI.

Ada said all local hires were guaranteed competitive salaries as well as health benefits, which included health care coverage and 401K as well.

“This was all developed during the pandemic,” he said.

Ada said the biggest thing though, is there is no environmental footprint and no dependence on government subsidies.

He said they just use an office space at the Marianas Business Plaza.

“And with that, we kept our island lush and beautiful as well,” he said.

Ada said the CNMI could potentially leverage its H1B exemption to develop an IT hub.

He said big companies such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, Snapchat have to hire employees outside of the U.S. because they’re a little bit more skilled in the areas that they need them to be covered.

Ada said with that, the U.S government put a national cap of 65,000 H1B.

He said interestingly, that cap is usually breached within like two weeks of announcement.

He said the deadline is April 1 for all big companies to submit their H1B application and by April 14, it’s already clocked out. Ada said the CNMI could potentially host H1B workers here to support national mid-size IT firms.

He said H1B can serve as training mentors for CNMI local workforce, which could potentially provide jobs as well as help the prospering economy.

Ada said the CNMI could establish a “proof-of-concept for permanency to H1B exemption on island.

Some benefits, he said, H1B are skilled workers with higher salaries or locals would get higher salaries, there’s no environmental footprint, and that there is ability to extend industry to Tinian and Rota.

Ada said this is a development of a sustainable and growing sector.

Ada recommended next steps for the Legislature is to potentially work alongside with the Commonwealth Economic Development Authority and Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors to craft industry development plan.

Ada said there can be limitation on the number of and types of IT firms.

He said another big part of it is minimum standards for participation in the CNMI IT industry.

Ada said some labor standards that he thought of was the wage and benefit requirements as well as leadership opportunities and promotional requirements.

On how it be implemented, Ada said it is vital to have an H1B plan. He said employers should be required to submit a three-year H1B staffing plan so that they can’t just come to the CNMI for one year and then decide to leave.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at

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