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August 03, 2007

UVI Tech Park

Tough story on the proposed UVI Tech Park on St. Croix out today in the VI Daily News - it pulls no punches exposing the fact that nothing has happened for nearly 6 years with 13 million dollars spent:

"The Virgin Islands is chasing an unrealistic Silicon Valley fantasy and sacrificing practical economic development at the expense of taxpayers.

Since 2002, the territory has allocated at least $13 million on the gamble that the University of the Virgin Islands' Research and Technology Park will attract high-tech companies to move to the islands.

Much like the expensive promises that left St. Croix with the near-vacant Rohlsen Airport and the unused Ann Abramson cruise ship pier, the assumptions that drive the Tech Park are based on miscalculations and unrealistic expectations.




We will certainly grant that members of our community may have concerns about the viability of the RTPark concept, or about the timeline required to see tangible results. I believe this is the core premise of the article. On balance, however, the article’s assumptions, “facts,” and conclusions are flawed.

• In fact, although we have been allocated almost $13 million by the Virgin Islands government, we have not spent $13 million. $7 million of that amount, for example, is a capital development grant managed by the Public Finance Authority that only became available to us earlier this year.
• In fact, by securing data center space inside the Global Crossing facility for our tenants and partners, we shaved two years off the time it would otherwise require to generate revenues and attract e-commerce and technology companies. We accomplished what prospective tenants and partners told us was most important, and what no one else in the territory had been able to accomplish before. I believe this is a demonstration of agility and stewardship, not of miscalculation.
• In fact, some of the other technology parks held up as examples in the article required much more time, and much more funding, to accomplish what we have already achieved.

Federal legislation passed in 2004 placed in doubt the applicability of territorial tax incentives for companies which also had business in the United States. Working in concert with other business and governmental leaders, we solicited a clarification from the US Treasury Department last year regarding income sourcing for e-commerce and technology companies, and provided examples taken from existing IRS code which demonstrated how territorial tax incentives and federal tax law could be applied to such companies. Success has many parents, and there are many leaders who are to be commended for supporting this initiative. Yet at a time when many might have questions about the RTPark’s progress or our mission, it is important to underscore that the income sourcing breakthrough reflected as Notice 2006-76 in Internal Revenue Bulletin No. 2006-38, released September 18, 2006 by the US Treasury Department, draws from examples we provided and work we commissioned to move our territory’s economic development objectives forward.

It is important to remember that the fundamental goal of the RTPark is not to be just a jobs program; instead, our goal is to foster a new and sustainable sector in our economy that provides high paying professional career opportunities for our residents, arrests the brain drain problem which plagues the Caribbean basin, and “moves the needle” on our economy. This is precisely the kind of development which can build economic opportunity and prosperity that can succeed in the face of global competition, and that is why the US Virgin Islands needs this now.

It remains for us to prove, of course, that the tangible benefits are real, here, and accelerating. We accept that responsibility, and we look forward to the day when some aspect of our collective initiative – whether reflected in a government agency, a university program, personal initiative, or from any other source – merits positive coverage in our local media. We appreciate the opportunity to speak to the concerns raised in the article, and will continue to look for positive opportunities to do so.

Posted by: dmzumwalt at November 8, 2007 05:43 PM
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