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Governor Bryan Advocates for a Revitalized Virgin Islands, Acknowledges Challenges in Inspiring Message

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In a recent series of events, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. of the Virgin Islands has passionately encouraged members of the Virgin Islands diaspora to consider returning home, contributing to a vision of a rejuvenated and thriving territory. This call to action is part of a larger initiative aimed at harnessing the talent and skills of Virgin Islanders worldwide for the territory’s ongoing development and post-hurricane rebuilding efforts.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new WIC building at the Department of Health’s Knud Hansen Complex, Governor Bryan spoke candidly about the challenges the Virgin Islands face in rebuilding efforts post-hurricane, particularly in human resources. “We had a mass migration after the storms, leading to a talent shortfall,” he stated. His message was clear: the contribution of the diaspora is not just valued but essential. “Your presence and participation could significantly ease our recovery efforts,” he emphasized, directly addressing Virgin Islanders living abroad.

Following Governor Bryan’s speech, the importance of this initiative was echoed in a Senate hearing by Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., senior entrepreneurship manager at UVI RT Park. He outlined the ongoing “Come Home USVI” campaign, highlighting its success in fostering dialogue with the diaspora through networking events in major cities. These discussions have been instrumental in providing a realistic view of the relocation process, addressing key concerns such as affordable housing and energy costs.

Acknowledging the challenges like high energy costs and the need for improved healthcare and education infrastructure, Governor Bryan and his team are focused on sustainable solutions. These efforts demonstrate the administration’s commitment to not only attract returning residents but also to enhance the quality of life for all Virgin Islanders.

The governor’s vision extends beyond immediate rebuilding efforts. He envisions fostering an environment that encourages the growth of industries requiring specialized skills, thus attracting talent and boosting the economy. This forward-thinking approach is pivotal for the long-term prosperity of the Virgin Islands.

In conclusion, despite the hurdles, Governor Bryan’s message remains one of optimism and determination. His leadership in the face of adversity reflects a deep commitment to the Virgin Islands, highlighting an unwavering resolve to overcome challenges and build a brighter future for the territory.

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Economy

Survey Unveils Strategies to Bolster USVI’s Diminishing Labor Force

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A recent labor force survey in the U.S. Virgin Islands highlights several strategies to strengthen and expand the territory’s shrinking workforce.

Economic disruptions from the 2017 hurricanes, the closure of the Limetree Bay refinery, and the Covid-19 pandemic have led to a declining population, reducing the available labor pool. Currently, the unemployment rate stands at approximately 3.2 percent.

The survey results, presented to the Committee of Education and Workforce Development by Collin Perciballi, a consultant with labor market analytics firm Lightcast, identified key approaches to address these challenges. Perciballi emphasized the importance of aligning career and technical education with cross-cutting skills, advocating for a workforce trained to be flexible and capable of filling various roles. Additionally, foundational skills, including computer literacy, should be integrated into K-12 and adult education programs.

Addressing the “enrollment decline” in schools, a byproduct of population decrease, is also crucial. Lightcast recommended offering scholarships to Virgin Islander families who have moved away.

High living costs, particularly energy expenses, deter people from returning to the territory. Perciballi noted that reducing these costs could encourage repatriation and expand the workforce pipeline. Energy, healthcare, and education gaps have long been barriers for Virgin Islanders in the diaspora.

Labor Commissioner Gary Molloy described the current job market, where available positions outnumber available workers, as a “job seekers market.” With over 6,000 workers in the public sector, Lightcast’s report suggested transitioning talent to the private sector without layoffs, proposing that for every new government hire, two positions should transition to the private sector.

Lightcast also urged the territory’s leaders to facilitate entrepreneurship by removing processing delays and high fees associated with starting businesses. They recommended a comprehensive regulatory review and overhaul.

The consultants advocated for establishing a remote work culture, suggesting policies to make the Virgin Islands a remote-friendly destination. This could attract talent to the territory.

Additionally, workforce development should target forward-looking sectors such as the blue and green economy and tourism. Training in solar energy maintenance and agro-processing can support these industries. Financial services, particularly on St. John, also hold promise.

With an aging population, there will be an increased demand for retirement and healthcare services. Lightcast suggested long-term care initiatives and training nurses to support the University of the Virgin Islands’ nursing faculty shortage.

Contracted by the Virgin Islands Workforce Development Board, Lightcast’s study aims to meet U.S. Department of Labor requirements to evaluate the territory’s labor market. Board Chair Michael Carty emphasized that the territory is at a pivotal moment and that comprehensive workforce development strategies are essential for sustainable growth.

Actionable solutions, he noted, will bridge gaps, attract talent, and bolster sector resilience.

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Economy

Lt. Governor Tregenza A. Roach Participates in NAIC Southeastern Zone Meeting

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Lieutenant Governor Tregenza A. Roach embarked on a journey from the U.S. Virgin Islands to Jackson, Mississippi, earlier this week. He attended the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Southeastern Zone Business Meeting in his capacity as the commissioner of insurance for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

As a dedicated member of the NAIC, Roach is actively engaged in a series of conferences, training sessions, and meetings that the association funds. This involvement underscores his commitment to effectively regulating the insurance industry and safeguarding consumer interests.

The NAIC plays a crucial role by equipping insurance commissioners from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories, including the Virgin Islands, with necessary expertise, data, and analytical tools. These resources help in setting standards and ensuring effective governance within the industry.

The focus of the Southeastern Zone meeting is to address issues relevant to the regions represented within the zone. Commissioners, grouped by geographic zones, convene periodically to deliberate on challenges and opportunities unique to their respective areas, promoting a collaborative approach to problem-solving.

Lieutenant Governor Roach is scheduled to return to the territory on Thursday, May 9, 2024. During his absence, Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr. will perform the duties of the Lieutenant Governor as stipulated by the Revised Organic Act of the Virgin Islands.

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Economy

St. Thomas Humane Society Adjusts to Economic Challenges with Strategic Staff Changes

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The Humane Society of St. Thomas (HSST) is navigating through tough economic waters by making difficult, yet necessary adjustments to its workforce. This strategic move comes after a detailed financial analysis revealed that the shelter must reduce its workforce to continue its mission.

Randolph Knight, the President of HSST, shared that this decision was not made lightly. A comprehensive review of the shelter’s finances made it clear that to sustain the care for the increasing number of animals and offset a downturn in donations, staffing changes were inevitable.

The society, a cornerstone in the St. Thomas community for animal welfare, has faced challenges like many non-profits, balancing the care of more animals with fewer resources. The decision to reduce staff is aimed at maintaining the shelter’s operations and ensuring the animals receive the care they need.

Knight expressed deep regret for the impact of these layoffs on the dedicated employees and their families, acknowledging their commitment and contributions. He reassured that those affected would be supported through this transition, including receiving information about COBRA for health insurance continuation.

Despite these changes, Knight remains optimistic about the future of HSST. The organization is actively seeking new funding sources and is committed to its mission of caring for animals in need. He highlighted the resilience of the remaining team members and volunteers, whose dedication ensures the shelter’s activities will go on.

Knight also encouraged open dialogue, offering contact details for those with questions or concerns about the staffing adjustments.

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Humane Society of St. Thomas continues to be a vital part of the community, demonstrating unwavering dedication to animal welfare even in the face of economic adversity.

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