79.6 F
Cruz Bay
Thursday, February 2, 2023


Sept. 8, 2001 – The Virgin Islands' tropical, Caribbean location, which bewitched Christopher Colombus lo those many years ago, and now continues to nurture our tourist industry, has today attracted another industry which may be the key to the territory's economic survival.
Orville Kean, University of the Virgin Islands president, told a St. Thomas-St. John Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday that UVI has a vision which could make the V. I. the nexus of international telecommunications.
Kean told the group attending the Chamber Expo at the new UVI Sports and Fitness Center of UVI's plans for Research and Technology Park, a proposal which has been in the works for more than two years.
Utilizing the global telecommunication companies which the Virgin Islands has enticed to its shores, Kean said, UVI envisions development of a world-class, mixed use park and incubator facility that will spur the territory's economic development. He said there would actually be two parks, one on St. Thomas and one on St. Croix, with the "initial thrust on St. Croix."
Kean noted that a majority of states on the mainland as well as Europe and Asia recognize that higher education is the key to economic success, and to this end they have begun to pump significant resources into public institutions in the areas of technology, entrepreneurial training and research and development parks. Kean stressed that this could be the future in the V.I.
The word, park, could be misleading, as part of the park is in cyberspace, it's virtual. The key components of the park, Kean said, comprise:
– A web-hosting, e-commerce segment enabling e-commerce businesses to have a virtual presence in the park.
– A business component, creating a home base for software development and knowledge-based companies.
– An incubator facility to enable individuals with business ideas to convert them into viable operations.
– A network of job training activities, including degree programs, student internships, workforce training and school-to-work programs.
The park engenders a strong partnership between UVI, industry and government to create information age opportunities, Kean said. The concept creates a "special synergy" that accommodates a clean, pollution free enterprise that won't overtax the local infrastructure and government services.
A major attraction of the park, in Kean's eyes, is the opportunity it offers students, and other Virgin Islanders, for a high paying, challenging career in the territory.
Several factor are essential to realization of the park, Kean said. The first is the establishment of legislation and legal framework to create appropriate tax incentives within the park. Also on the list are reliable, cost-effective broad band connectivity and power, a business friendly environment, backed by government support for the requirement of high technology and e-commerce companies.
Kean believes the tax incentives now offered to businesses can effectively be employed by the park to generate tangible benefits for the V.I. He said the projected investment in buildings and infrastructure would exceed $7.5 million in the next four years.
The park would, at a conservative estimate, create 240 high-technology jobs over the next four years, and 1,750 over the next 10 to 15 years.
Kean said the park will produce almost $18 million in payrolls which would generate $3.5 million in personal income taxes yearly by the park's fourth year of operation. Additional revenues will come from franchise taxes, license fees and other corporate taxes. Cybersuites for conducting e-commerce will offer a lucrative alternative to the loss of revenues from the Foreign Sales Corporations, Kean said. The FSC program, which was outlawed this year, creating a loss of millions of dollars annually to the territory.
In conclusion, Kean emphasized that he believes any V. I. economic plan should include the park as its main vehicle for building a high tech economy.
The UVI president met a warm audience including Chamber president John de Jongh Jr., faculty and board members and a cross-section of the business community including Tom Brunt of MSI Building Supplies, attorney Adrienne Dudley, Mary Gleason, Marriott's Frenchman's Reef Resort marketing director, and Claudia La Borde of AT&T.
Dudley asked Kean what sort of businesses had expressed interest in the park. While Kean declined to name companies, he said, "there are partners waiting, software and product development companies."
In response to reporters questions, he said the park could be a reality within two years. Then, on to other matters.
Kean announced earlier this year that he would retire next year after almost three decades at UVI's helm. He took over the presidency in 1966 when the institution was the College of the Virgin Islands, and except for a couple breaks, one academic to complete his doctorate on the mainland, and another to head the V. I. Department of Commerce, he has remained at UVI.
What was his finest hour? The tall, thoughtful Kean didn't have a ready answer. He gazed around the new V. I. Fitness Center, called one of the finest and most sophisticated in the Caribbean, "This certainly is an accomplishment,"he said, "but it illustrates what we have done, turning adversity into opportunity." The center sits on land formerly occupied by the old UVI field house which, along with several facilities on both islands, was destroyed by Hurricane Marilyn.
"We've rebuilt the greathouse on the St. Croix campus, restored its physical and architectural beauty put in a new cafeteria. On St. Thomas we have put in a new dorm and a water production plant, and we've done this in spite of underfunding in our government allotments," Kean said.
"When something goes wrong, turning it into an opportunity, and adding a new measure of respect and recognition to the school," Kean continued, stopping to reflect with a smile, "That's quite a mouthful."
Kean said, "No, I'm not going to write my memoirs. I'm going to spend time with my wife and parents and grandchildren, do some landscaping, reading. What I'm going to do is enjoy being free from the embrace of the clock."
Pondering the future a little further, Kean added with a satisfied expression, "And I'll be able to retire while I'm at the top of my game."

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.