The Northern Marianas Descent Corp. wants ownership of businesses established on CNMI public land.
Last Saturday, NMD-related organizations came together to discuss the third draft of Senate Bill 20-35 with Rep. Alice Igitol (R-Saipan). The third draft of the bill proposes the extension of public land leases from 40 years to 55 years in consideration of the five existing hotels (Mariana Resort & Spa, Hyatt Regency Saipan, Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan, Kanoa Resort Saipan, and Grandvrio Hotel) that will soon max out their lease.
According to NMDC president John Gonzales, NMDs are not in favor of the bill because NMDs are under-benefited with the current public lands lease agreement.
“The over-arching position was that to keep the 40 years because if they’re all expiring, lets sit down again and negotiate the next 40 years… We believe the current arrangement of 40 years under represents us… and under benefits us because the money doesn’t directly benefits us,” he said.
What NMDC wants is to negotiate new terms with current or interested lessees that include direct benefits to NMDs.
“A competitive, marketing proposal, will be entertained…our other position, was to make sure that our NMDs have a better direct stake in the renewal of or execution of this new 40 years… We want to look to the examples of the native Indians of the U.S. They own, for example, the franchise of Hard Rock Café and a few of the casinos and restaurant chains in the U.S., they own it because of the land and they own the businesses but they hire management firms to run them…so why can’t we look to that example and engage in that kind of business, innovative partnership…where we own the land…and hire management firms to run these businesses,” he said.
According to Gonzales, another term NMDC is proposing is direct stock ownership of the established business in exchange of public lands or allocate a percentage of profits for every year to NMDs.
“We are in dire need of culture. Why can’t we have our NMDs be presidents of these hotels, be presidents of these restaurants, of these investments? Why can’t we when many of our NMDs are well educated? Why can’t we give them leadership opportunities to run the businesses?” he said.