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Update: Business coalition to support ASG’S voice in DC

A coalition of businesses that want to serve as a supporting voice in Washington, DC to deal with federal policies relating to American Samoa’s economy is being formed, starting with four companies, including two canneries.


Leading in the formation of the advocacy group will be StarKist, Tri Marine International, Polynesia Line and Hamburg Süd along with others who directly or indirectly represent the largest portion of private sector employment in the territory, according to a joint news release by the four companies.


The release says representatives from American Samoa’s largest employers and businesses have begun reaching out to other local businesses and organizations to form an advocacy coalition to support stronger economic development policies.


The goal of the organization will be to serve as a supporting voice in Washington, DC, as Congress and the Obama administration review and evaluate current and potential future federal policies related to the American Samoan economy, it says.


Striving to ensure the American Samoan people have the tools they need to build a vibrant and thriving future, this coalition will work to achieve the following goals:


•         Raise awareness of the unique and significant economic challenges faced by American Samoa, and the importance of the territory to the United States;


•         Provide experience-based, private sector input into the policymaking process;


•         Serve as a voice to Congress in advancement of sound policy proposals and in protection of taxpayer resources; and


•         Advance federal legislation to create jobs and to achieve viable, long-term economic growth and independence for the American Samoa economy.


Responding to Samoa News request for comments, the local Chamber of Commerce board said it was unaware of the proposal to form this advocacy coalition until yesterday’s media statement ( released yesterday morning).


“...but the more support for the private sector in trying to develop the economy the better,” the Chamber statement said. “The Chamber has been trying to find ways to assist the [Lolo] Administration through the Department of Commerce to make use of the expertise and the commercial connections of its membership to search for potential investors in a number of different and specific industry sectors with a view to strengthening our economy.”


The Chamber board says it would be interested to find out how the Chamber can work with the coalition as most, if not all their members are members of the Chamber.


Mary Sestric, the StarKist Co., director of corporate affairs, said Congressman Faleomavaega Eni and Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga are being both thoughtful and thorough in their review of existing programs and policies.


“We strongly support them and feel we in the business sector have an obligation to help their efforts,” said Sestric in the joint news release, adding that StarKist is proud of its  50-year history in American Samoa and hopes to have a strong presence in the territory well into the future.


“We consider ourselves to be part of American Samoa and therefore have an obligation to do our part,” she said.


There was no immediate reaction from the Congressman and the Governor’s Office regarding the proposed coalition.


According to the joint statement, American Samoa is at “an economic crossroads and can no longer rely solely on past economic policies that may have become outdated or ineffective in a dramatically changed global economy.”


Without a broad-based economic development plan to attract new investment the American Samoan economy will continue to deeply struggle,” it says.


Joe Hamby, managing director and board chair of Tri Marine says the company is making the largest recent investment in American Samoa by building a new cannery and helping the local fishing fleet to be better able to bring their fish to market.


Through this investment we hope to help American Samoa return to be one of the leading economic hubs for the fishing industry,” said Hamby in the joint statement. “Helping the federal government to formulate economic development policies that focus on the future is a natural extension of our investment.”


He says Tri Marine wants to see the whole economy succeed –  from the fishing to its cannery and the fresh and frozen fish operations, to the boats, to the shipyard, hotels, transport and all the other local businesses.


“We’ve made a commitment to American Samoa in the most concrete way possible –  with our investment,” said Hamby who was in the territory in April for the dedication of the company’s new cold storage facility.


Jens Jensen, president of Polynesia Line said that as the territory’s longest serving, continuous shipping line, Polynesia Line is eager to assist the American Samoa advocacy coalition in finding ways to grow and strengthen the local economy.


“American Samoa has been the backbone of our business for forty-six years and we are honored and duty bound to help the residents of American Samoa in finding ways to improve their lives through economic growth and opportunities,” said Jensen.


Added Juergen Pump, senior vice president of Hamburg Süd North America Inc., “As a carrier serving the South Pacific since 1953, Hamburg Süd feels privileged to participate with the advocacy coalition. In finding ways to strengthen the economy and lives of the residents of... American Samoa.


According to the joint statement, the U.S. has a national interest in a prosperous American Samoa as an important strategic and symbolic foothold in the South Pacific for more than 113 years, and an obligation to the people of this U.S. territory with deep historical and military ties to the mainland.


StarKist, Tri Marine, Polynesia Line, Hamburg Süd and their partners hope to keep those bonds strong by building a broad-based and diversified American Samoan economy for the future, it says.