Business leaders want Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to pursue the permit of about 18,000 contract workers in the CNMI on a permanent basis.
The Strategic Economic Development Council voted to make this recommendation last Tuesday, underscoring the workforce needs of growing development in the CNMI.
“After a considerable amount of discussion regarding the future number of operating staff required including the current development plans on Tinian, Rota, and Saipan,” council chair Robert Jones told Saipan Tribune,” the SEDC members recommended that Torres consider requesting the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to allow 18,000 CW workers for the CNMI on a permanent basis.
“The vote on the recommendation was a great majority of the members of SEDC,” he added.
Request for comment from Torres’ office was not immediately available.
Council members have also discussed in recent meetings the government’s use of its developers infrastructure tax, broaching ideas to have the tax be dedicated to infrastructure improvements to handle new development, Saipan Tribune learned.
Among various ongoing development tourist projects, SEDC expects 700 new rooms to be constructed and operational in 2017. In 2018, they expect an additional 1,300 rooms to be constructed and operational.
Based on the Hotel Association of the Northern Marianas Islands 0.71 ratio, there’s an expected need for 497 hospitality employees for these 700 rooms in 2017.
In 2018, that number would be an additional 923 employees based on the 1,300 rooms.
Talks for a need of 15,000 to 35,000 workers in the CNMI reportedly have been broached to meet growing development demands.
The CNMI faces the expiration of its local contract worker program in 2019. These workers provide much of the labor force for the local economy and would need Congressional action to extend or replace with a new visa class catered to the CNMI’s needs.
The federal government is expected to cut annually the number of contract workers allowed in the NMI up to this 2019 date.
Last October, the cap was cut by 1,000 workers to 12,999 for fiscal year 2016.