They’ve been working together for years, and last week they made it official – a partnership that starts off with the development of a strategic plan that promises new opportunities for V.I. small businesses.
Officials from the V.I. Economic Development Authority and U.S. Small Business Administration signed the two-year agreement last Thursday and said the plan will first focus on making local small business owners more aware of the resources they have available through both organizations. The strategic plan, meanwhile, will look at areas and programs the territory may have not yet tapped into and ways in which to communicate those opportunities to business owners.
“There are 29 million small businesses in the United States today, and a number of them are right here in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” V.I. Economic Development Authority Chief Executive Officer Kamal Latham said afterward. “About 70 percent of those businesses are operated by one person, and what this partnership does is make sure these individuals know how we can help them as well as develop a plan to realize more opportunities for them.”
Officials said that includes looking at demographics – female entrepreneurs and veterans among them – that are often underserved.
“By making our partnership official, we can bring the full suite of our programs to spur economic development and support some of these areas,” SBA Senior Area Manager Wayne Huddleston said. “This gives us the opportunity to formalize some of the things we’ve been working on in the past, but also do some new things that, if we continue to work together and collaborate, could really help local small business owners.”
Having public education and resource forums, along with continually sharing information between the agencies, is a key part of the process, added SBA District Director Yvette Collazo.
“It is time for us to rethink our overall strategy and look at how we can specifically target underrepresented groups,” she said. “That also includes opening opportunities by looking into other programs that the territory has not yet tapped into. It’s exciting to think about what can happen in the months ahead, and I think the public will be able to see the results of our joint efforts pretty quickly.”