/ SPECIAL TO THE STAR-BULLETIN
U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne had lunch yesterday with Gov. Linda Lingle at the Waikiki Marriott Hotel. He served as Lingle's mentor when he served as Idaho's governor.
Pacific ripe for investment, official says
Businesses should invest in the U.S.-backed developing economies of the Pacific Ocean because they provide safe, English-speaking access to Asian markets, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said yesterday.
Kempthorne said the U.S. territories and partner nations in the Pacific offer low-cost, politically stable opportunities for private investors.
"There is untapped economic potential, like the American West during the last century," Kempthorne told hundreds of people at the 2006 Business Opportunities in the Islands conference in Honolulu.
He encouraged companies to consider opening in these business-friendly regions that want to grow their economies.
The presidents of the Marshall Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia attended the conference, as well as representatives from the U.S. territories of Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands.
Because these locations are protected by the U.S. military and have adopted American-type legal systems, businesses can safely start venture projects as well as partnerships with local governments to build hospitals, schools, roads, airports, sea ports and power plants, Kempthorne said.
"There are unlimited opportunities for U.S. companies to participate in these projects, and in doing so you can gain a business foothold in the islands to expand into other enterprises," he said.
As a result of similar Pacific conferences in 2003 and 2004, a California company opened a nursing home in Saipan, a cruise line is starting service to Micronesia in 2007, and an Oklahoma company will provide insurance services in Guam.
After Kempthorne spoke, leaders from the Pacific region took the stage to explain why their islands hold appeal for the enterprising entrepreneur.
In Palau, the government is encouraging the growth of eco-tourism to luxury travelers, said President Tommy Remengesau. The small country already received a head start with widespread exposure from the reality TV show "Survivor: Palau," which aired in 2005.