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Larson: Govt has more funds to go around


Finally for a change, the CNMI government has more funding to go around because of the upswing in the local economy, according to Department of Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson, who served as the keynote speaker of the first-ever CNMI Business and Finance Conference held yesterday at the Saipan World Resort.

“Over the last couple of years, we have experienced a surge of development in our tourism industry. Large businesses are regaining their footing. More and more small businesses are popping up. As a result, unemployment has been dropping as more jobs become available,” said Larson.

The Finance chief, speaking in behalf of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres who is off-island on official business, explained that along with the improvement of the economy, the government has been making priority adjustments with funding, now that it has a little more to delegate.

“With this current trend of economic growth, the Torres-Hocog (Torres and Lt. Gov. Victor B. Hocog) team and their administration recognize the opportunity to fulfill many of the government’s financial obligations, while simultaneously increasing the efficacy of public services,” said Larson. “In just five years, we have seen our revenue almost double from that low point in 2011 and thankfully, we only see more growth and economic recovery on the horizon.”

Larson expects another boom in economic growth, especially with the opening of the much-awaited Grand Mariana Casino & Hotel Resort, which would bring not only more accommodation and recreational choices for the tourists, but more importantly, abundant job openings for locals.

“Construction of the Grand Mariana has advanced progressively over the last year and anticipates a partial opening in early 2017, which will increase the number of rooms available in the market and introduce new activities and products for our visiting tourists and local consumers.”

Larson acknowledged the roles of entrepreneurs, who have also greatly contributed to the economic growth of the CNMI. “We recognize the vital role our business community has made to our economic growth and recovery and it is critical that we take this recognition to the next level and enhance the foundations that have already been put in place by our partners who are all here today.”

She also foreshadowed the upcoming happenings in the conference. “The people here in this room are leaders—across industries, government, and the private sector. The conversations we have these next two days will be about identifying important steps to addressing key barriers to greater access to economic opportunities, providing more lending opportunities for small businesses, and finding new approaches to include young people and aspiring business owners in our growing economy,” she said.

“I say this because the economy is everyone’s business, and at the end of the day, it is all about bettering the lives of the people who call these islands home,” said Larson as she signed off.

Bank of Guam VP Credit officer Mike Naholowaa and BOG VP/CNMI Regional manager Marcie Tomokane were both extremely pleased and partially astounded with the turnout for the confab.

“One-hundred and seventy people! What’s funny is when we first did this, about 50 showed up,” shared an enthusiastic Naholowaa. “We have one more day tomorrow and it’s going to be awesome, because we have the federal people to come up for programs, but we’re also going to have a lot of businesses talk about what is needed from us in order to be successful, whether its from the private companies, banks, or even the government, we’re going to hear what they have to say.”

Tomokane added that tomorrow would be another day of business education. “The small and large businesses would also be talking about where they came from. From then, to now, and where they are today. Be it small or large, they would probably make a presentation based on how they grew,” she said.

Naholowaa thinks that along with the economic boom that the CNMI is currently experiencing, the businesses would prosper, therefore benefitting the community.

“Hopefully with this conference and with Marcie’s support, we should be able to help businesses. If the businesses are able to get financing and able to help themselves with the business, this is something that would go a long way in improving the CNMI,” said Naholowaa. “If the customer is successful, then the bank is successful. If we’re all successful, then the community is successful. That is the mission.”

The second day of the Business and Finance Conference will be from 8:30am to 4pm at the Royal Taga Hall in Saipan World Resort.

Bank of Guam, Saipan Chamber of Commerce, and the Commonwealth Development Authority are hosting the conference aimed at sharing information about business and financing.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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