Monday, January 18, 2010

Chamber of Commerce: We need buildup

Chamber of Commerce: We need buildup

By Amritha Alladi • Pacific Daily News • January 15, 2010

A revenue surge, infrastructural improvements and investments in health-care facilities and equipment are among a list of reasons the Guam Chamber of Commerce has said the military buildup is necessary for Guam.

According to the "14 Reasons Why We Need the Military Buildup" posted on the Chamber's Web site, the relocation of 8,000 Marines and their 9,000 dependents to Guam will provide revenues "our government desperately needs ... in order to provide services our people depend on."

"We know that local infrastructure such as roads, utilities and ports of entry will finally be upgraded, and the federal government will assist in getting this done," the Chamber's statement read. "By the military working with our own solutions for garbage, the solutions may cost less for all of us."

This preliminary list is a bullet-point document that's a precursor to the White Paper the Chamber is close to finalizing, said David Leddy, president of the Guam Chamber of Commerce.

While the Chamber's White Paper, also known as the Opportunities Paper, will not present the Chamber's view on the draft Environmental Impact Statement document study, it will provide perspectives from experts in various industries, talking about the challenges in their respective fields, and what they feel the positive impact of the buildup will be on their industries.

"It's straightforward information, dispelling some of the urban myths that are out there," said Leddy. "The other component to this White Paper is that we're compiling endorsements and testimonials from different organizations, other like-minded stake holders (who) see some of the positive aspects of the buildup," he said.

With more people paying income taxes, and as businesses pay more taxes and fees, the draft Environmental Impact Statement estimates that government of Guam will generate $325 million in 2014 revenue alone -- an increase of about 60 percent of its current annual budget.

According to the Defense Department document, Guam's unemployment rate is expected to fall to 4 percent when Guam residents and off-islanders start taking on jobs associated with the military buildup.

The draft EIS shows an additional 33,000 jobs for civilian workers will be created by the 2014 peak, and an additional 6,150 jobs will be provided on a "more permanent basis" thereafter.

That's why Leddy, like many others in the business community, are looking forward to the economic opportunities brought by the buildup.

However, during a series of recent public hearings on the draft EIS, some local residents expressed strong opposition to the buildup, arguing that issues such as land acquisition, congestion and a strain on existing water and energy resources -- outweigh its benefits.

"The reality is that this buildup is coming, (so) we also have to take the posture of finding ways to leverage the buildup as much as possible so the buildup plans are carried out in such a way that it benefits the community at large," Leddy said.

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