The CNMI’s economic diversification is in the pipeline and making the Commonwealth known for a strong technology industry is one of the priorities of the administration of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres. But what that tech industry would look like is still up in the air.
According to Matthew Deleon Guerrero, Torres’ chief of staff and member of the Strategic Economic Development Council, in what way a technology industry will be realized has yet to be seen, as many factors are still being studied.
“Branching out to the tech industry is carefully being given a lot of weight, planning, and discussion…We are also making improvements on the efficiency of the generating capacity of the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. to be able to handle an energy-intensive industry,” he said.
CUC executive director and SEDC member Gary Camacho said that CUC fully supports that. The only thing needed is to ensure that CUC is equipped to grow with it.
“It is basically responsibility that we need to have. We are closely working with the administration and soon with the board in many ways to address and put into place mechanisms that will assist in dealing with economic growth and diversification in the CNMI,” he said.
“The annual utility growth in the U.S. is 1 percent a year. In CUC, we have had significant growth and the demand has increased over 40 percent over the last year and a half so the challenges are there. Many of my counterparts in the other utilities in the Pacific and in the U.S. mainland have told me that this is a serious challenge for CUC and that has also been expressed in the SEDC meetings,” he added.
Camacho agrees with Deleon Guerrero that further study needs to be done to build a tech industry in the CNMI, not only on the part of SEDC but also within CUC.
“It is imperative that we understand that growth should pay for growth. We are very fortunate to have growth but as far as utilities is concerned, infrastructure should pay for growth. CUC has something in place to grow with the CNMI economy because, as a utilities corporation, we have to be prepared and that is the thing about the many utilities through out the world.”
“Currently, we do have the infrastructure to address the current and new demands but it’s important that we understand that the utilities grow alongside with every aspect of the community and economy. We do not want to get ahead building infrastructure for possible expansions to other areas that will eventually be not utilized,” he added.
Camacho said that utilities must run as a business and like any business it must charge for its services and the growth.
“We don’t want to be paying for assets that are not generating revenue. We would like to be able to expand but mechanisms must have to be put in place so we can have a vibrant economy and continue to support the economy,” he said.
According to Camacho, CUC is encouraged with how the economy is doing and is always looking for ways to provide added service.
“We want to help every time and all the time. We can support whatever power supply is needed but the reality is, some of this takes time and it may not be in place at that particular moment of need. But then we will make sure…that it gets here relatively quickly. Currently, there are a lot of discussions, planning, and action to address that,” he said.
“We are doing a lot in acquiring grants to…assist us in our operational expenses in dealing with our old infrastructure. We have a strategic planning group that we put together that is preparing and following growth and seeing what new demands are being brought in for the utilities that we have to address,” Camacho added.