The V.I. Economic Development Commission met Thursday and approved a new tax benefit certificate and chose an Energy Sector Analysis consultant.
“The goal of the Energy Sector Analysis is to identify investment opportunities in existing and potential renewable energy projects within the territory to promote to investors,” according to information from the Economic Development Authority.
An evaluation committee met Aug. 5 and reviewed proposals before recommending bidder Siemens Power Technologies International, and the EDA Board of Directors — which also functions as the EDC — gave approval to begin contract negotiations.
“Our economic prosperity is directly tied to the U.S. Virgin Islands’ ability to provide reliable, affordable, and sustainable sources of energy to our residents. The Energy Sector Analysis will move forward the Vision 2040 plan to drive investment in renewable energy sources and green technology investment to build resilient infrastructure,” said EDA Chief Executive Officer Wayne Biggs Jr.
The territory’s Vision 2040 renewable energy goal aspires for 75% of energy generation to come from renewable sources by 2040.
The EDC also voted unanimously to grant a new certificate of benefits to Paragon Surgical Center.
The ambulatory surgical center company was organized in 2018, and its benefits application was deemed complete in April. The company has agreed to maintain a minimum total of 10 full-time employees, make a $408,000 minimum investment in the business within one year of the commencement of tax incentives, and other charitable contributions.
The EDC voted to grant 100% tax exemption for 20 years, but said physician fees shall not be included in those exemptions.
The board also voted to approve an amended grant of incentives for V.I. Paving, Inc. and an extension of time to commence incentives for Sunset Cove Holdings.
Board members also heard from Mounir Nahas, owner and chief operating officer of Black Diamond Advisors and Black Diamond Holdings. The two receive tax incentives for alternative asset management, and both companies operate out of the same space.
The companies have been receiving tax incentives for a decade under two separate benefits certificates which are set to expire, and are requesting an additional 10 years at 100% of benefits. Attorney Marjorie Roberts said the extension would give the companies “the maximum initial benefits of 20 years, as authorized by current legislation.”
Company representative Chad Bell said that “the operating and office expenses are shared 50/50, we allocate them evenly between the two companies,” which have about 23 employees between them. The EDC will vote on whether to grant the requested extension at a future meeting.
Biggs also told the board that the International Economic Development Council has assisted in providing a volunteer to work with the EDA “in hopes that we would be able to at some point attain accreditation from them, in regard to being an accredited economic development organization.”
The EDA has created a proposed operational plan that will be discussed at the next meeting, Biggs said.
He also said they hope to have a request for proposals out for a strategic plan for the agency “very, very shortly.”
Chief Financial Officer Kelly Thompson-Webbe gave an overview of the 2022 fiscal year budget of $7.4 million, 90% of which comes from government funding.
For the first time, the budget includes $200,000 to the Enterprise Zone Commission to revitalize downtown, Thompson-Webbe said. The budget has an overall increase of $700,570, including increases in personnel costs to cover wage negotiations and professional services to procure a lead-generating consultant to attract new business investment.
Thompson-Webbe said the budget also includes an analysis of and cost-benefit model for the tax incentive program.
The budget also includes a $149,374 increase in business marketing “to implement the global marketing campaign,” and anticipated increases in utility costs.
The five board members present voted to approve the budget, including Chairman Kevin Rodriquez, Phillip Payne, Haldane Davies, Jose Penn, and Gary Molloy. Board member and Agriculture Commissioner Positive Nelson was excused.