Ads by Google Ads by Google

Building supplies for proposed multi-food processing plant are on island

in this Samoa News 2016  file photo, leaders from the American Samoa Government and the Fono along with Anthony Bernardo of AVM Bernardo Engineering are pictured during a groundbreaking ceremony for a food processing plant across from Public Works in Tafuna. [SN file photo]
Governor says after this year, if nothing materializes — “we might as well forget it”

The Philippines-based company wanting to establish a multi-food processing plant in American Samoa is now in the process of obtaining government approval to set up in the territory, while containers of construction materials for the plant are already on island, says Commerce Department director Keniseli Lafaele.

AVM Bernardo Engineering proposes to invest $106 million to set up a “multi-line food processing plant” and Lafafele told Samoa News that the first phase of the project is the juice line, with the second phase being fish-based processing.

Asked at last Friday’s news conference for an update on the AVM project, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga said a company official recently left the territory after making the “same promise” six months ago. He didn’t elaborate further, but said he's hopeful that when the official returns before the end of the year, the project will start moving forward.

Lolo said he has informed the DOC director that after this year, if nothing has materialized on this project, “we might as well forget it.”

It appears that AMV is still facing difficulties in securing investors with the governor telling reporters the “bottom line” is that investors, who want to invest in American Samoa, “want a good return of their investment”.

“You cannot invest money here, with [only] very little or no return at all,” he said, adding that it's very difficult to convince investors to invest their money in American Samoa.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held late January last year for the AVM project, which once fully operational, will provide up to 800 jobs. But there have been some setbacks, with the company seeking new investors, resulting in more meetings for investors held in Honolulu this year.

“Finding investors has been a real challenge, but with the recent approval of our EB-5 Regional Center we are looking for investors through that route,” Lafaele said yesterday in response to Samoa News inquiries, “but AVM is moving forward with starting the project.”

(ASG's Homeland Security Department announced last month that U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Citizenship and Immigration Services has approved the EB-5 Regional Center, under the Immigrant Investor Program for American Samoa. See Samoa News Oct. 30th edition for details)

Lafaele told Samoa News two months ago that AVM has decided to start phase 1 of the project on its own, and the company is processing the necessary paperwork to conduct business in the territory and move forward with construction.

He said yesterday that the food processing plant project is a “work in progress”, and AVM's Articles of Incorporation with the Immigration Board, once approved, will see the company’s business license being processed.

According to the DOC director, AVM has submitted a request for work permits for skilled workers to start the construction phase, and thee containers of materials have arrived on island.

“Important to note — this is a collaborative effort between ASG, AVM, other private investors and third party operators,” Lafaele said yesterday.

AVM’s operation will be located at the Tafuna Industrial Park and the company plans to market products to the US. The multi-food processing plant will also focus on frozen fish-based sausage, ham, nuggets and patties.

Lafaele told senators early this year that it’s “very difficult to attract investors to invest in American Samoa, due to — among other things — transportation, and international trade agreements between the US and other countries.”