‘Guam can be a Tiger economy’
Tuesday, 17 November 2009 01:42
by Jude Lizama | Variety News Staff
WITH or without the military buildup, Guam has what it takes to develop its economy and the island must take advantage of its assets, according to an economic developer from Arizona.
Gayle Cooper, executive director of the Economic Development Group of Eloy, Arizona, presented “Guam: Making the Pacific Tiger” during the recently concluded Guam Community and Economic Development Forum, which provided possible strategies to improving the island’s economic landscape.
“One of the first things you learn in economic development is to know your client. If you’re a good ‘economic development’ person you never look at anything from your own perspective, you look at through the perspective of your client,” Cooper said.
“This island has such a golden opportunity with or without an influx of increased military presence. It is in the ideal situation for making the best of its economy right now,” she added.
Strategies for improvement, according to Cooper, include developing and educating local talent, attracting an educated workforce, partnering with others, accentuating strengths, and minimizing the negatives of cultural diversity.
Cooper warned Guam to be wary of “CAVE men,” which stands for “citizens against virtually everything,” and can be a destructive component against development.
In order to become the Pacific Tiger, Cooper said there must be an improvement in educational levels, comprehensive on-island healthcare, preservation of culture, good jobs and wages, and an increase in housing availability and affordability. While Cooper agreed that the preservation of culture is critical, it is but a component of the larger picture to develop economically.
“You cannot be single issued in today’s world. In a global economy you cannot be isolationists,” she said. “We cannot build a wall around the island. There is a lot changing. We are all part of it.”
“Anything that is not sustainable is not economic development,” Cooper said, adding that respective projects that do not promote economic, social, and environmental benefits for the community should not be brought to the table.
Additionally, Cooper stated that the island’s cultural diversity is “a big plus.”
“Cultural diversity as opposed to a truly homogenous society is a big advantage because it brings in many different viewpoints and it brings in the advantages that we have enabled through so many centuries of intermarriage and movement around our earth to bring people more and more to the best they can be,” she said.
The Arizona based economic developer said an undiversified economy and educational levels go together.
“It is evident that without the military and tourism there wouldn’t be a lot here. You have not capitalized yet on your military presence as you’re bringing engineers and companies that produce product and work with the military your economy will grow astronomically and the jobs will grow,” she said.
“However,” she added, “you need that educational attainment in order for those jobs to be built by the Chamorros and people who live here in Guam. The big thing is we haven’t challenged our youth to go for it.”