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DOC economic plans directed at building a bridge with private sector

reporters@samoanews.com

Tuesday’s issue featured an interview with the newest DOC economic development planner, Lasiandra “Lasi” Hall, who is working to bridge the gap between government and private sector in order to promote commerce and increase job opportunities.

It is a gap which has many skeptics in the business community, who have long believed government stopped listening to their concerns, or acting in their best interests. Hall is determined to turn that around.

BUSINESS LICENSES

People need to have quick and easy access to their business licenses, she said, and Hall understands the frustration with the lengthy process which has marked the business license “path” for years.

She notes there is a team working to get a “One Stop” internet process implemented and available soon, saying “it is definitely a priority” at DOC.

The Information Technology Department (ITD) has been working on making the business license process, including renewal, easier for the private sector, by allowing it to be done on-line. Hall noted that Easter Asi-Bruce, head of the IT Department has worked closely with DOC attorney Sean Morrison regarding the “One Stop Shop” process.

TOURISM AND DOC

One way to promote tourism is to make it easier for tourists to enter the territory. With that in mind, Hall is working with Legal Affairs to find ways where entry into the territory for visitors — coming in for things such as  invitational sporting events — can be made easier.

Because our target markets include New Zealand and Australia, it is important to get the last leg right (Apia to Pago Pago). “We are building contacts with Samoa, which is very supportive of these kinds of partnerships. Legal affairs has been very receptive to this as well. They want to see American Samoa succeed and grow, too.”

She cited the Billfish Tournament as a good example of the kind of regional, invitational event which promotes tourism and stimulates the local economy.

“Preliminary figures showed us that roughly $13,000 a day was spent in the territory for souvenir shopping and entertainment during the Billfish Tournament held this past May. This number did not even include hotel and other accommodations or rental cars,” she said.

“Twelve boats came this year...so the potential for this type of regional event as another way to market the territory is very great.” The year before saw 25 boats participating, and although she did not have the stats on money spent when 25 boats were here, she said, “Imagine how much money would be spent here by working to increase the number of boats, or the number of tournaments.”

She also spoke of collaboration with the American Samoa Visitors Bureau. “We’re working closely with ASVB right now on a Bruckner Chase event. Chase, a world marathon swimmer who works closely with ocean conservation and marine sanctuaries has completed one Ocean Swim in the territory, and is looking forward to coming back

 His experience in American Samoa is posted on his Facebook page, which is positive publicity for the territory as well.

By featuring Chase and his accomplishments, along with his efforts to promote worldwide ocean conservation, we are hoping to bring tourists here for “Open Water” competition swims, one of Chase’s signature events, Hall said.

The event is also in support of the “Two Samoas Initiative” she added.

“We will have a feature swim from Tutuila to Upolu, where strong swimmers from both islands will be asked to participate. With ten swimmers, each one will have a four mile leg, and the theme will be “Two Samoas, One Ocean”.

Promoting this event regionally, and holding week-long festivities, will open this up as another boost for commerce, bringing both tourists and participants. Hall added, “I’m hoping to work with the ladies in charge of Women’s Sports, to put together an agenda which includes many invitational sporting events.”

Hall admits that our tourism office is understaffed and underfunded, saying, “this is a challenge, because there are so many great projects out there that we could work on...” adding, “There’s no shortage of ideas“.

Another of those ideas in the works, said Hall, “We are planning to host a seminar which will bring interested villagers together to create the points (or stops) on an island tour package, using things they already have, such as an umu or a beach fale.”

Working closely with AS Visitor’s Bureau and working collaboratively is important to Hall, who sees partnerships— committees made up of private sector and government representatives—as a way to utilize scarce resources and eliminate duplication of effort.

FIRST FRIDAY AT THE FAGATOGO MARKETPLACE

DOC’s commitment to supporting and developing local businesses, and diversifying the economy, is the push behind promoting the Fagatogo Marketplace. The first step has been accomplished, which has been highlighted in other Samoa News stories — wherein local ethnic groups have come out and shared their culture and their cuisine at the Marketplace on the First Friday of the Month.

According to Lasi, Land Grant participated in the most recent First Friday (Sept. 2) and “they were a hit!” They can’t wait to come back next month with their students, where they may hold a workshop at the Marketplace conference room to teach people how to grow vegetables at home using hydroponics, she said.

Future possibilities for First Friday include things such as orchid plant displays and sales, and Land Grant seedling promotional. The ASCC ukulele band has also expressed interest in performing on a First Friday this year.

Hall encourages anyone interested in being part of First Friday to call her at DOC (633-5155) and make arrangements for space.



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