Collaborations with local, federal partners to assist small and minority—owned businesses key to success for the USVIEDA after Hurricanes Irma and Maria
CHARLOTTE AMALIE, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands – October 30, 2018 – For its performance in providing economic services and resources to small and minority-owned businesses in the U.S. Virgin Islands following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (USVIEDA) has recently been awarded the 2018 Disaster Recovery Advocate of the Year Award by Florida’s Minority Business Development Agency Export Center. This award was presented to the USVIEDA on Friday, October 19, 2018 during the 36th Annual Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week Business Matchmaker Conference & Awards Power Lunch in Miami, FL.
The USVIEDA was also recognized for its engagement and support of the MBDA Export Center & Disaster Assistance Programs for South Florida, Puerto Rico & the U.S. Virgin Islands during the post-hurricane recovery process throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands. After the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the USVI in September 2017, the USVIEDA worked with the MBDA, local and federal government agencies, non-profit organizations, lending institutions and other private sector businesses to assist the Territory’s business community.
In May 2018, the MBDA hosted a “Small Business Recovery and Growth Event” in partnership with the USVIEDA to share information with owners and representatives of small and minority-owned businesses in the USVI about tax incentives for small businesses, financing options, technical assistance, exporting opportunities and disaster preparedness planning. Representatives of the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) were also present to inform local contractors about upcoming construction projects and discussed grant funding that was anticipated for the territory through the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR).
In August 2018, the MBDA held a week of mentorship and technical assistance workshops for business owners in the districts of St. Thomas-St. John and St. Croix.
After the storms, the USVIEDA also collaborated with the U.S. Department of Commerce; U.S. Economic Development Administration (U.S. EDA); U.S. Department of Agriculture; Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); U.S. Small Business Administration (U.S. SBA); U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA); and the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) and non-profit organizations to facilitate disaster recovery activities to help local businesses. Such activities included disaster recovery workshops to provide information and review the hurricane’s impact on economic development, mentorship opportunities, and being a guide for financial and technical assistance options.
The USVIEDA also worked with IEDC volunteer experts to 1) conduct a survey with more than 30 businesses in the territory to learn about their challenges and needs, 2) assess the territory’s economic situation, identify and recommend strategies to stimulate growth; and 3) evaluate the EDB loan programs. The USVIEDA also facilitated discussions between IEDC volunteer experts and key stakeholders such as Virgin Islands legislators, members of local chambers of commerce and community foundations, and the leaders of local government agencies.
The USVIEDA also met with business owners during site visits to learn about their challenges and discuss how public-private partnerships can improve the territory’s economy. The USVIEDA brought together entrepreneurs with representatives from federal and local agencies, community organizations, and lending institutions, all of which had programs designed for economic recovery and growth. The USVIEDA also assisted its clients and other small and minority businesses with other initiatives through the Economic Development Bank (EDB), V.I. Economic Development Commission (VIEDC), and the Enterprise Zone Commission (EZC).
With its Disaster Assistance Program (“D.A.P.”), the EDB – the lending arm of the USVIEDA for small to medium-size businesses in the USVI – offered its clients an opportunity for relief on their obligation to repay their business loan after the hurricanes. The EDB extended their clients’ loan repayment terms through a short-term forbearance period from September 2017 through December 2017. Partnering with officials from the U.S. Small Business Administration (U.S. SBA), the EDB staff also conducted site visits with clients to assess their needs and offer assistance.
The VIEDC, which offers tax incentives to qualified businesses in exchange for capital investment, business development and job creation in the Territory, waived purchasing requirements of businesses receiving tax exemptions through the VIEDC Economic Development Tax Incentive Program from September 6th through December 31, 2017. The VIEDC also allowed these businesses, or VIEDC beneficiaries, to redirect their remaining charitable contributions to local non-profit organizations or government relief agencies directly related to the hurricanes.
The EZC, which offers tax exemptions and credits to residents and business owners in distressed and impoverished neighborhoods (also known as designated enterprise zones) in the USVI, conducted a special Rapid Damage Assessment Survey of buildings within the Territory’s enterprise zones. This survey showed the level of damages to historic structures in these zones namely Savanne-Downstreet, Garden Street-Upstreet, on St. Thomas and in Frederiksted and Christiansted on St. Croix.
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