TOGETHER, WE CAN
During the early months of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers’ work, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios encouraged us to work together to transform the Marianas after a video depicting dilapidated tourist and community sites revealed the real and unfortunate conditions of the facilities on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
The call drew widespread support from the community. One year later, while also recovering from major catastrophes and the pandemic, through the GCEA’s Public Private Partnership initiative, we have made progress in transforming destination sites and village facilities in the Marianas. What were once condemned facilities have become useful again, providing safe, clean, and comfortable spaces to enjoy. Basketball courts are drawing more youth and adults back for pick-up games in the villages. Beach parks and newly painted pavilions are welcoming families and friends to gather in nature.
The transformations continue throughout the Marianas. By the time this column reaches newsstands, the GCEA will be on its way to Rota to kick off its first-anniversary celebration with another exciting PPP project. The council turned one on May 19, the day Gov. Torres signed Executive Order 2020-11 to establish the council and set a vision in motion: formulate economic initiatives and transform Rota, Tinian, and Saipan for our people.
Today, with the help of our Rota partners, the GCEA will repair and repaint the Sinapalo basketball and volleyball courts and spruce up the Sinapalo Youth Center, giving these facilities much-needed facelifts. The Rota facilities will be among the 55 sites adopted by 53 organizations this past year. We’ve come a long way since we started with just six groups and 11 locations. Next month, we will head to Tinian to continue the celebration by completing a similar project and cap off the celebrations on Saipan in July.
As a community, we’ve accomplished great things together this year. The CEDA bill was unanimously passed in the House of Representatives and Senate, moving us a step closer to having a critical tool to aid in economic recovery.
Through the cooperation of key government agencies, we were also able to lift some barriers in the permitting processes, which is crucial in rebuilding our infrastructure, stimulating the economy, and providing job opportunities for our residents. The increase in number of qualified construction firms, from five to 17, would allow the Marianas to capitalize on a billion dollars of federal infrastructure funds and the heightened construction timeline. Moving forward, the Infrastructure and Recovery Office will further expedite this effort by strongly supporting line agencies with adequate staff and premium professional services. Through this office, we look forward to the acceleration of projects through the FEMA, CDBG-DR, EDA, and OIA grants, and potentially another billion dollars or more through the American Rescue Plan Act and Build Back Better plan.
On the tourism side, the GCEA has been working with the Marianas Visitors Authority, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, and other stakeholders in designing the safest tourism resumption plan.
We’ve also advocated for a universal garbage collection system, in which we are receiving strong community buy-in. More and more people are speaking up about the harmful effects of illegal dumping and the need for a Marianas-wide program. The GCEA will continue to tackle systemic issues such as illegal dumping, permitting, reliable utilities, multi-island travel, and destination branding and transformation, that has been affecting our ability to grow as an economy.
As we commemorate our first anniversary, we have launched our website, cnmieconomy.com, to feature the transformations taking place and the people behind them. Visit our website for before and after photos, news, and updates about our initiatives to elevate the Marianas into a world-class destination.
It’s truly inspiring to have the community’s support along this journey. It gives us the confidence to take steps toward bigger goals—to provide a better quality of life for all who call the Marianas home. We may face challenges along the way, but we are certain that TOGETHER, WE CAN make a difference.
For more information, visit the GCEA on Facebook and Instagram (@cnmigov.economy) or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* * * *
Mike Sablan is vice president of Triple J Enterprises, Inc. and chairperson of the Domestic Policy and Recovery Committee of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. As an advisory council for Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, the GCEA’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the Marianas for all residents.