St. Croix Economy Boosted by Rum and Gas

Feb. 16, 2005 – Members of the Senate Economic Development, Planning and Environmental Protection Committee heard positive news about the future of St. Croix's economy during the first meeting of the committee Wednesday.
Sen. Neville James, committee chairman, had called the session to gather information relating to the economic growth of the territory, and in particular, St. Croix.
According to a release from the V.I. Legislature,
Tourism Commissioner Pamela Richards told senators St. Croix saw a 21.4 percent increase in air arrivals during 2004, as well as a 19.7 percent increase in hotel room nights.
Cruise passenger numbers also increased with the return of several cruise ships for "unanticipated bunkering" at the Ann E. Abramson Pier on St. Croix, Richards said.
Richards said her department, along with the V.I. Port Authority meets regularly with current and potential airline carriers in hopes of increasing flights to St. Croix. Due in part to their efforts, Delta Airlines will resume operations on the island in March. (See "Port Authority Discusses Ways to Raise Money").
Richards urged the senators to re-instate the Airline Development Fund to strengthen the territory's ability to attract airlift.
The tourism commissioner said her department's marketing strategies, which incorporates a fully "integrated blend of traditional and non-traditional marketing communications" would benefit St. Croix fully.
Lauritz Mills, director of the Bureau of Economic Research, told senators that despite some job losses in the watch, construction and tourism industries on St. Croix, the island's economy has seen growth in the refined petroleum and rum industries, according to the release.
Mills said the value of refined petroleum was expected to increase to exceed $5 billion and rum shipments to the United States was expected to reach 6 million proof gallons in 2005, which would mean more revenues for the territory.
St. Croix should pursue the creation of a strong financial services sector, the development of medical treatment centers, e-commerce and business development, attracting research and development firms, and eco- and recreational tourism to boost its economy, Mills told the senators.
James requested Mills to submit recommendations along with statistics to the government every three to five years.
Also testifying before the committee were Labor Commissioner Cecil Benjamin Agriculture Commissioner Lawrence Lewis and Capital Projects Director Keith Richards.
Lewis told the committee his department was doing the best it could in reaching out to the farmers to develop the agriculture product of St. Croix. Lewis added his department's efforts could be enhanced by more timely delivery of services to the farmers, better equipment made available to the farmers and a better financed Agriculture Department, among other things.
James said although St. Croix has been in a "protracted state of economic stagnation," he did not believe in sacrificing any sector of the "booming economy" on St. Thomas to aid St. Croix.
He added, "This committee has the potential to have a significant impact where developing our community is concerned in the short, mid and long term."
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