The various and varied groups that rallied to support the Marianas Round Table economic conference in Saipan from May 19 to 21 are to be commended.

What looked like a hopeless cause — keeping the garment industry afloat and economic stimulus in the Northern Mariana Islands — may yet see success.

Participants and panelists were from a range of industries including garment manufacture telecommunications tourism and the military. They presented a snapshot of their industries with thoughtful presentations and panels composed of industry leaders.

While many economic conferences sugar-coat the reality of a battered economy or take time to blame past legislatures and government leaders to the nth degree the Marianas Round Table members did not indulge in such fruitless pastimes.

Industry leaders spared their peers in the audience little however and presented the grim realities and challenges facing the Northern Mariana Islands particularly as the garment industry rallies late in the day to preserve what it can in an effort that should have been undertaken years ago.

Henry Tan vice president of Luen Thai manufacturing only underlined the lack of preparation to save a pillar of the CNMI economy when he illustrated the strides made by geographical areas with far less in the way of resources.

While attendees did not criticize political leaders repeated calls for a united political front were appropriate. Before the CNMI can rally to the garment industry take its cause to Congress and ask for support from caring advocates at the U.S. Department of the Interior the island’s leaders must demonstrate to their own constituents that if they are not hearty fans of the industry they do at least believe in an effort to breathe new life into the victim and will rally to that cause.

Speakers at the conference took the trouble to point directly to what was needed to move their respective industries forward. Those needs could provide economic opportunity for those inside and outside the Mariana Islands and business leaders would do well to continue contacts in the United States and around the region to present opportunities to those who would respond to incentives that should be made attractive for investors.

Alex Sablan president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce told this Journal in an interview for its May 16 edition that the conference is a beginning.

This is a worthy aim and a challenging one for any business community. In the CNMI’s case it is essential if the economic ship is not to sink still further.