The Commonwealth Economic Development Authority’s board of directors announced yesterday the hiring of the agency’s first Economic Development Manager. Dave Guerrero will be joining CEDA from First Hawaiian Bank on Saipan, where he serves as the bank’s assistant vice president – Commercial Banking Officer.
The EDM role is a specialized position created as a result of Public Law 22-1, which transformed the Commonwealth Development Authority into CEDA, the government agency tasked with generating investments and driving economic development for the Marianas. The law designated CEDA as the CNMI’s lead agency for economic development and will ensure that additional tools and funding are provided for the specific purposes of attracting, retaining, and expanding foreign private sector investments in the CNMI.
“We added another important milestone in the Commonwealth’s history with the naming of a new EDM,” said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres. “Dave’s role will be to lead efforts to attract the right investors, work with the Legislature, agencies, and stakeholders to improve our destination to make the CNMI more attractive to investors, create opportunities for economic diversity, and utilize his extensive experience in finance to help the CNMI fast-track its recovery.”
Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios congratulated CEDA on appointing Guerrero to lead economic development efforts. “As we work toward a stronger economic future, the Marianas has made a strategic move by appointing a dedicated economic development manager. Dave will lead the charge with a deep understanding of what it takes to establish a sustainable business and how businesses can do that successfully in the Commonwealth,” Palacios said.
CEDA board chair Aubry Hocog said the board looks forward to building the agency’s strategic plan with Guerrero. Their first order of business is to assess the current state of the economy and develop the diversification plan, which will be presented to Torres. Hocog noted that the CNMI relies heavily on one industry—tourism. She says the Commonwealth needs to expand and welcome diverse industries and investors to rebuild the economy.
“Under the new legislation, CEDA has the opportunity to be flexible with these changing times. We are ready to get to work to diversify the CNMI’s portfolio,” she said. “It will take teamwork to get there. With Dave’s impressive background, we are confident that we can create a plan that will ultimately benefit our community.”
CEDA executive director Manuel A. Sablan echoes Hocog’s sentiments, noting that Guerrero’s credentials, private-sector experience, and deep understanding of economic development will help to lay a strong foundation for CEDA.
“Dave will help us to zero in on what is needed to bring in development and investments for the CNMI. We will begin by laying out a multi-year plan and identify the funding to make it a reality,” he added.
Economic development manager
Guerrero, who was raised on Saipan, will officially join CEDA on April 18 and will work with the board of directors and the executive director to identify and secure investments for the CNMI locally and abroad.
Guerrero holds a master’s degree in economics from California State University, East Bay. In addition to FHB, he has also worked at various stateside and local financial institutions: Wells Fargo at its headquarters in San Francisco, California; Franklin Templeton Financial Services Corp.; and Bank of Guam. Guerrero has been in the finance industry for more than 15 years specializing in anti-money laundering, fraud, compliance, operations, sales, loans, and investments.
“When I was preparing for college, I decided on economics as an area of study because I knew it could one day help our islands,” Guerrero said. “I am looking forward to bringing my years of experience to serve the people of the Marianas. My personal goal is to improve our standard of living through sustainable business opportunities for our people, which will, in turn, create more jobs and ultimately lead to a stronger economy.”
Guerrero also serves as the board member-treasurer for 500 Sails and board member-treasurer for Mariana Islands Nature Alliance. He is an active member of the Rotary Club of Saipan – District 2750 and served four years on the Commonwealth Public Utilities Commission, representing Saipan.
“As the first in this role, I face unchartered territory. I see my role as someone who will bring the right people together to accomplish our shared mission. I’ll be talking to a lot of people, seeing what can work, evaluating risks, and filling gaps. It must be a win-win for the CNMI and investors. I thank the board for their confidence in me and look forward to working with them to make the Marianas better for us all.” he said.
“Mr. Guerrero’s appointment is another positive step for the Marianas,” said Jerry Tan, co-chairman of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. “In 2020 when the council recommended that the CDA evolve into CEDA, we knew this was the key to attracting quality investors and new industries to the islands.”
Tan noted that Guerrero’s appointment comes at the perfect time as the Marianas is reopening and rebuilding after many tough years. “The Commonwealth is ready to build its economic future. Our residents have endured so much, and this is the time to be proactive and strategic.
We are committed to ensuring that Dave has the support he needs to be successful and to work together as a community to build up the CNMI to be more appealing to international investors. He has the important job of connecting the Marianas to the right people and driving economic development that will directly meet the needs of the people,” he said.
Mike Sablan, CEDA board member and chairperson of the Domestic Policy and Recovery Committee for the GCEA, noted that appointing a new Economic Development Manager is the smartest investment in the Marianas’ future. “With Dave’s expertise and extensive background in economics and finance, he will help our government and the private sector understand what the Marianas needs to accomplish to attract investors and how we can become more economically stable,” he said. “Dave will be instrumental in connecting the right agencies to make development more feasible and efficient. He can establish the right incentives, through qualifying certificates and tax breaks, for example, which will entice quality companies to establish businesses here. He has our full support.”
When it was created in 1984, the CDA was tasked with stimulating the economy and promoting the CNMI to regional and global investors. Other government agencies have assisted in promoting investments in the CNMI. In June of 2021, Public Law 22-1 was unanimously approved by the CNMI Legislature and signed into law by Torres, thus restructuring and renaming CDA into CEDA, the government agency tasked with generating investments and driving economic diversity for the Marianas. CEDA was identified as the lead agency to spearhead future economic growth. With the EDM appointment, Guerrero will liaise with local agencies, stakeholders, and investors to secure quality projects for the Commonwealth. (PR)