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V.I. Economic Development Authority Boosts Local Businesses with $900K in Loans

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The V.I. Economic Development Authority (EDA) has successfully facilitated two significant loan agreements under the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) 2.0 and local lending programs. The EDA’s recent actions have played a pivotal role in providing essential funding to two small businesses in St. Croix and St. Thomas, aimed at fostering job creation during the ongoing recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. A restaurant in St. Croix and a fishing supply store in St. Thomas, beneficiaries of this financial support, are projected to generate eight new job opportunities within the territory.

Under SSBCI 2.0, the EDA secured over $493,000 in loan guarantees for these businesses, complementing loans amounting to $910,000 from FirstBank. EDA CEO Wayne Biggs Jr. emphasized the importance of this initiative, stating, “Our commitment is to nurture our local business ecosystem. The access to SSBCI 2.0 not only catalyzes growth for small businesses but also plays a crucial role in fostering employment and ensuring the long-term economic wellbeing of our community.”

The EDA highlighted the success of the initial SSBCI phase, which led the U.S. Department of the Treasury to allocate an additional $57.5 million in February 2023, a substantial increase from the initial $13.1 million. This funding expansion underscores the program’s effectiveness and potential impact.

Beyond loan guarantees, the SSBCI 2.0 encompasses a variety of financial support measures, including collateral support and loan participation. Moreover, it offers payment, surety, and performance bond programs. The EDA is actively working to complement these financial offerings with technical assistance, covering crucial aspects like legal, accounting, and documentation support, vital for both the inception and sustained success of businesses.

In addition, the EDA announced that two other small enterprises are nearing the finalization of loans totaling over $1.9 million from FirstBank, with SSBCI 2.0 guarantees exceeding $987,000. These impending deals are expected to create an additional 25 jobs.

Mr. Biggs acknowledged the importance of collaborative efforts with local lenders, highlighting that strengthening these partnerships is essential for the successful implementation of the SSBCI program’s second phase, which operates on a scale notably larger than its predecessor.

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Touched by Tiva: Sativa Williams’ Journey from Hobbyist to Beauty Mogul on St. Croix

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A transformational tale of ambition and artistry is unfolding on St. Croix, where Sativa Williams, the creative force behind Touched by Tiva Makeup Studio, has turned her fervent interest in makeup into a thriving enterprise. This business not only offers a wide array of beauty enhancements but also stands as a beacon for those aspiring to convert their passions into successful careers.

Sativa Williams embarked on her beautification odyssey with a simple curiosity about makeup, which quickly blossomed into a creative outlet as she adorned friends and family, receiving critical yet constructive feedback from her closest kin. Her talent became evident during her tenure at the University of the Virgin Islands on St. Thomas, where her reputation as a skilled makeup artist grew, leading to numerous requests for her services at various events.

Returning to her roots on St. Croix, the demand for Sativa’s expertise continued unabated. After experimenting with different vocations, she acknowledged her unwavering passion for the beauty sector. With the backing of her husband, Nasheem Williams, she initially launched a boutique offering lashes and hair bundles, a venture that, while eventually taking a back seat, laid the groundwork for the inception of Touched by Tiva Makeup Studio.

The studio, aptly named to reflect Sativa’s commitment to providing personalized and tender care, quickly became renowned for making clients feel so at ease that they would often doze off during their beauty sessions. Sativa, now a licensed tattoo artist, has broadened her services to include “powder brows,” a semi-permanent technique that delicately refines and accentuates eyebrows, offering lasting beauty for up to three years.

Sativa Williams’ journey is a narrative of resilience, dedication, and the relentless pursuit of one’s aspirations. She passionately encourages fellow entrepreneurs to embrace their dreams, underscoring that the road to success is paved with challenges that ultimately forge strength and resilience. “The financial rewards you seek will follow once you commit to your path,” she asserts. “Every trial encountered is merely a step toward fortifying your resolve.”

Touched by Tiva Makeup Studio invites everyone to discover the transformative experiences it offers, with detailed information on services, operating hours, and special promotions available through its website and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram). Sativa’s evolution from a collegiate enthusiast to a celebrated entrepreneur exemplifies the power of perseverance and the realization of dreams through hard work and unwavering commitment.

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Governor Bryan Stands Firm Against EU’s Unfair Tax Blacklist

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At a recent pivotal meeting, the European Union’s decision to keep the U.S. Virgin Islands on its list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions was met with immediate and stern opposition from the Government House. Governor Albert Bryan Jr., speaking at the Department of the Interior’s Interagency Group on Insular Areas annual meeting, voiced his strong disapproval of the EU’s stance, emphasizing the inappropriateness of treating the USVI as though it were a nation distinct from the United States. “Being singled out and treated differently from other U.S. territories in matters of tax is something we cannot accept,” he asserted.

Governor Bryan, who has been at the forefront of efforts to challenge the USVI’s placement on this unfavorable list since 2019, announced plans for an upcoming dialogue with officials from the State Department in Washington to address this critical issue among others impacting the territory.

The Bryan administration is calling on the European Union to reevaluate its position and acknowledge the U.S. Virgin Islands’ dedication to international standards of cooperation and transparency. Describing the continued blacklisting as unjust, the administration is committed to correcting this situation and securing equitable treatment for the residents of the USVI.

The European Union justifies its decision by pointing to the USVI’s lack of participation in the automatic exchange of financial information and its failure to sign and ratify the amended OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance. The EU also labels several of the territory’s economic initiatives, including the Economic Development program and the International Banking Center Regulatory Act, as fostering a preferential tax regime, which has led to the territory’s maintained status on the blacklist.

The creation of the EU’s tax-haven blacklist, spurred by the revelations of the Panama Papers, has faced widespread criticism for its perceived bias. Marla Dukharan, a prominent Caribbean economist, has condemned the EU’s approach as a clear display of racism and bullying, noting that a significant number of tax havens exist within EU member states themselves.

This confrontation underscores the ongoing struggle for fairness and recognition on the global stage, with Governor Bryan leading the charge to ensure the USVI is treated justly and equitably in international affairs.

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USVI Continues to Navigate EU Tax Blacklist, Highlighting Commitment to Fair Tax Practices

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The landscape of international tax cooperation is ever-evolving, with recent adjustments to the European Union’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes. This list, aimed at promoting fair tax competition and governance, has been updated, resulting in the removal of several jurisdictions, including the Bahamas, Belize, Seychelles, and the Turks and Caicos Islands. However, the U.S. Virgin Islands, alongside Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda, remain on this list, spotlighting ongoing discussions between these territories and the EU.

The European Union has raised concerns regarding the U.S. Virgin Islands’ practices in automatic exchange of financial information, as well as its participation in the OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance, which has been amended to enhance global tax cooperation. Additionally, certain aspects of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ Economic Development Program, the International Banking Center Regulatory Act, and the list of exempt companies have been identified by the EU as potentially fostering a preferential tax regime.

Despite these challenges, the U.S. Virgin Islands has consistently expressed its commitment to adhering to international tax standards and has refuted the classification as a non-cooperative jurisdiction. The government of the U.S. Virgin Islands has previously addressed the EU’s concerns, emphasizing the legitimacy and transparency of its economic development initiatives and denying any connection between these programs and tax avoidance strategies that could affect EU member states.

The creation of the EU blacklist was catalyzed by the Panama Papers’ revelations, showcasing the use of offshore entities for tax reduction. The list has since been a subject of debate, with critics, including prominent Caribbean economist Marla Dukharan, arguing that it reflects discriminatory practices. Dukharan has highlighted the irony in the EU’s stance, noting that a significant portion of the world’s tax havens are located within EU member states themselves, calling into question the fairness and impartiality of the blacklist.

As the U.S. Virgin Islands remains on the EU’s list, the territory’s government is actively engaging in dialogue and taking steps to address the EU’s concerns. The ultimate goal is to ensure that the U.S. Virgin Islands is recognized for its commitment to fair and transparent tax practices, aligning with global standards and contributing to the fight against tax evasion and avoidance.

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