Lolo: Admin highly committed to improve relations with private sector

Points to DBAS loans to local businesses, streamlined new biz license process
fili@samoanews.com

Through various loan programs offered by the Development Bank of American Samoa for local businesses, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said more than $9 million has been injected back into the local economy over the last four years.

The governor made the comments in his Comprehensive Report of the State of the Territory Address, which is in English only, and was distributed to lawmakers and others during Monday’s opening of the joint Fono session.

Part of the Address deals with the private sector, and Lolo points out that his administration has been highly committed to improving government services and relations with the private sector. For example, the process of new business licenses has been streamlined to a one-day process, compared to the previous method, which took about six months.

Under the new expedited process, Lolo says nearly 3,740 business licenses were issued in 2015 since the policy was implemented by Commerce Department in 2013.

However, the number of business licenses issued has dropped since 2016 when business licenses fees were recently hiked. During the 2nd quarter of FY 2016, only 2,619 businesses licenses were issued, said Lolo adding that the administration continues to remain hopeful as 3rd and 4th quarter figures recently show a respective increase of 2,775 and 2,990 in business licenses issued.

Additionally, as of November 2016, DOC claimed an increase in its revenue collections as business licenses issued (2,995) improved by 3.28%. And based on DOC and Treasury’s Revenue Division records, as of November 2016, a total of $491,469 has been collected in license fees from the 2,995 business licenses issued, indicating an increase of $337,219 or 219% in revenue collection compared to FY 2014 total license fee revenues of only $154,250.

LOAN PROGRAMS

According to the governor, business start-ups have also increased tremendously in the last four years due to the varieties of loan programs offered by the Development Bank of American Samoa for local businesses. For example, in the last three years, 294 loans from 10 different loan programs were awarded for business start-ups and home loans.

“This injected $9.3 million back to the local economy,” the governor said and noted that nine loans through the Economic Development Administration Revolving Loan Fund (EDA-RLF) were also dispersed in the last three years.

Furthermore, about 51% of the EDA-RLF was awarded for business startups and 49% towards industrial activities, thus injecting about $679,750 back to the territory’s economy.

ASG also continued providing financial programs to assist entrepreneurs and small businesses through the Small Technical Assistance Program under DOC’s Economic Development Division (EDD).

This program assists applicants towards processing their business licenses in order to qualify for other financial assistance programs offered by entities such as the ASCC Small Business Development Center; Bank of Hawaii Grant Assistance Program; Department of Human and Social Services Vocational Rehabilitation Program; and EDA-RLP.

The governor said that since 2016, about 2,415 clients visited EDD for various items of technical assistance such as management counseling, financial counseling, business verification, business licenses process and loan package, and information on investment guides to American Samoa.

INVESTMENT & VENTURES

Lolo cited investments and ventures achieved by the administration in the last four years. For example, the small business incubator located at the Fagatogo Market place and currently occupied by four small businesses. The incubator’s goal is to promote the establishment and startups of small businesses.

Another venture cited in the report, is the ground breaking last year of the Philippines-based AVM Bernado Engineer Company, to start construction of a new multi food processing facility. Lolo said the company has “invested about $106 million” to build the new plant, which will create more than 500 new jobs and the facility is projected to take a year to complete.

According to the governor, ASG have also negotiated with Datamatics to set up a pending call center by the end of the year. And if successful, the call center will provide a minimum of 100 to 200 new jobs.

Samoa News notes that officials of Datamatics in the last part of 2015 held a recruiting session with local residents as well as meetings with local officials about its plans to set up in the territory a business process outsourcing — similar to a call center operation. However, there have been no new updates in 2016.

Other investment and ventures cited in the governor’s address:

•     Re-development of the old Rainmaker Hotel property to construct a new 150 room multi purpose hotel with an interested developer from New York;

•     Tramway Revitalization Project in Utulei is currently on going with the assistance of the original designer and builder of the former tramway, Interstate Equipment Corp., which has completed a preliminary engineering assessment for a new tramway system. DOC has sought and received preliminary project eligibility approval through the US Department of Agriculture Community Facilities Direct Loan Program.

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