DeJongh OKs $117K contract to draft economic plan for V.I.


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ST. THOMAS - Gov. John deJongh Jr. has awarded a $117,000 contract to former Bureau of Economic Research Director Lauritz Mills to draft the next Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy plan for the territory.

The plan is a document used to guide the territory's economic development, as well as to ensure the territory continues to receive federal funding and technical assistance.

The territory produces the economic plan every five years and provides annual updates.

When deJongh took office in 2007, the 2006 plan had expired. He formed a committee of people from the territory's public and private sectors to craft a document outlining the challenges, objectives and solutions for increasing growth and economic development in the Virgin Islands.

The plan was approved and submitted to the U.S. Economic Development Administration in 2009. The last annual update the territory completed was 2012; however, the 2013 update was just sent to the governor for approval, according to current Bureau of Economic Research Director Wharton Berger.

Berger said the committee that created the 2009 plan still exists and meets twice a year. This time, instead of the committee drafting the plan, the governor chose to contract it out.

It will be up to Mills to decide how she wants to develop the plan and whether she wants use the committee to help her or not, Berger said.

The funding for the $117,000 contract, awarded to Mills' company SYGMAPCS, comes from a federal grant designed to fund economic development initiatives, Berger said.

The 2014 plan must be submitted to the federal government by September 2015, according to Government House.

The contract specifies that the economic plan must include sections describing the background of the economic development of the region; an analysis of economic development opportunities and challenges; a comprehensive list of goals and objectives for economic development; a description of private and public sector relationships; identification of regional projects, plans and activities; and a plan of action for implementing the goals and objectives, according to Government House.

"We are continuing the focus on the overall economic development of the Virgin Islands with the primary objective of creating opportunities for jobs," the governor said in a prepared statement. "The outcome will be an economic platform that everyone can understand, have ownership in its implementation and feel comfortable with the resources put towards a successful outcome."

The plan submitted must cover seven major areas:

- Implementing goals and objectives in a manner that promotes economic development and opportunity.

- Fostering transportation access.

- Enhancing and protecting the environment.

- Maximizing effective development and use of the workforce.

- Promoting the use of technology, including access to high-speed or broadband telecommunications.

- Balancing resources through sound use of physical development.

- Procuring and using adequate funds and other resources.

DeJongh himself worked on a different five-year economic recovery plan as president of the St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce under the administration of Gov. Charles Turnbull in 2000.

- Contact Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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