Editor’s Note: The following are responses from each non-incumbent senatorial candidate to a single question posed by the Journal. Of the 17 candidates on the ballot and write-in candidate Romeo Carlos, 14 responded in time for press.

 

If you could only take up one issue as senator next term to encourage businesses to actively support the health of Guam’s economy, what would it be?

 

Frank F. Blas Jr. (Rep.)Frank F. Blas Jr.
“That issue can be best determined by reaching out to current and prospective business owners and hearing from them. There is a wealth of information and ideas on how we can move our economy with the many individuals who engage in business here. As a business owner myself and a part of a family-owned venture, I’ve seen and believe there are a number of different opportunities for business growth and expansion. With these opportunities, new and existing businesses can flourish, and in doing so, will become more active in participating and supporting a vibrant economy. I’m excited [about] the future we can build for Guam and for the opportunities that we can develop and provide by working together.”

 

Roland Blas (Rep.)

“I will work on initiatives that will make it easier to start small businesses on Guam and to encourage entrepreneurship. A vibrant small-business sector will mean more jobs for the people of Guam and increased tax revenues. I would look at the process and the bureaucracies involved with starting a small business on Guam and streamline them to make them more business-friendly. The concept of entrepreneurship should be introduced to our students at the elementary, middle and high school levels; it’s never too early to start our kids thinking about the idea of starting their own businesses and becoming financially independent.”

 

Romeo Carlos (Rep.)Romeo Carlos

“I believe strongly [that the government] should not be in the business of telling businesses what to do. The one thing our government should and must do is remove barriers and obstacles that create a harsh or difficult business environment. I would immediately want to review the law that changed the island’s drinking and the operational hours for many businesses. Despite voters going to the polls in overwhelming numbers and rejecting that effort at the ballot three times, a handful of lawmakers overturned the will of the people. We now [have] a track of data to review to see if this was good or bad idea and how we might reform the law — to the least extent, closing hours, particularly in tourist zones. Considering the lack of jobs and difficulties businesses face to maintain revenue and profitability in light of the move to a higher minimum wage, this is one thing I know we can do that can make a real difference.”

 

William M. Castro (Rep.)Wil Castro headshot 01

“Opportunities in the education sector of our economy will be my primary focus if elected. The K-12 education market holds vast potential for Guam. Foreign student enrollment throughout the United States — and in neighboring foreign countries in the Pacific, for that matter — have grown in double digits. Guam’s strategic advantage has always been location, year-round summer and an American standard of living — to include an American model of education. Hosting foreign students on Guam and capturing tuition, fees, meal revenues and associated boarding costs already occur in private schools throughout the island. As a senator, I’d like to establish public policy that fosters and encourages further growth in these areas, this time for both public and private schools on Guam. Second, professional development for foreign executives right here on Guam is another niche that I’d like to help grow in collaboration with our public and private partners.”

 

Rodney A. Cruz Jr. (Dem.)Rodney Cruz Jr.

“If elected as senator in the 33rd Legislature, one issue that is not being addressed on Guam is at the forefront of our island: poverty [and] an increasingly growing amount of homeless amongst families and veterans on the island. […] I would encourage our local business community to [implement] corporate social responsibility into their business models and would challenge businesses leaders to [partner] with nonprofit organizations that provide direct services to our people in need. I would encourage a program [in which a portion of] money spent at local businesses goes right back into our communities, such as public schools, public parks, youth sports, community events and homeless shelters. It is all part of a good-neighbor policy, the ‘Inafa ‘Maolek spirit.’”

 

Judith P. Guthertz (Dem.)judi guthertz

“Guam is over-regulated. One of my primary initiatives as a new senator would be to work aggressively on regulatory reform and simplification by introducing legislation to repeal laws and regulations that hamper business activity and economic growth in Guam. We have too many laws and regulations in place that discourage investment and job creation. I will work on this as a priority initiative.”

 

 

Derick B. Hills (Dem.)

Derick Baza Hills

“In order to have a healthy economy, the government should be doing what it can to encourage small businesses. I would like to see the amount of forms and payments required to obtain or renew a business license lessened as well as having tax-exempt laws and rules reviewed so that our small locally owned businesses can be exempt for purchases that go toward helping the business operate and its mission to the community.”

 

 

 

Glenn A. Leon Guerrero (Rep.GLENN_LG_headshot)

“I would encourage businesses to stand behind our workforce development programs. Our workforce is a vital component to a healthy and vibrant economy. By investing into workforce development programs, businesses would be directly improving the competencies and skillsets of their current and prospective employees. This creates a win-win situation. Businesses would see their investment yielding a more productive environment with reduced inefficiencies, and employees would see better wages resulting in a happier and, consequently, a more motivated workforce. Ultimately, public-private partnerships forging together to better educate and train Guam’s workforce will result in a healthy, thriving economy and a better way of life for our people.”

 

Adolpho B. Palacios Sr. (Dem.)Adolpho B. Palacios Sr.

“Growing small business, we have to encourage the growth of the small-business sector. I own a small business myself, and I would estimate that small businesses employ about 80% of the workforce in the private sector. But in order to improve the growth of small business, of course, we have to look at the current laws and see what grows and constricts small business and amend them as necessary. More than anything, I feel that it’s important to simplify and streamline the startup process and help more entrepreneurs turn their ideas into working businesses.”

 

Valentino G. Perez (Rep.)Valentino Perez

“How can businesses help grow Guam’s economy? Isn’t that the purpose of [the Guam Economic Development Authority]? They are the experts on economic growth. Other than that, take some guidance from business leaders, the people who have worked tirelessly for financial and economic prosperity. They have conquered that learning curve. The Guam Chamber of Commerce would be a great place to start. In fact, the Guam Chamber of Commerce has reached out proactively to create such a relationship; it is called the Delegadu Program. Guam’s business leaders constantly get overlooked by lawmakers when it is not campaign season. Most of Guam’s businesses are locally owned, and these owners care about the aggregate health of Guam because Guam is home. These locals know that this paradise we all call home tends to their needs and supports the well-being and growth of all of Guam’s children, not just theirs.”

 

Michelle H. Taitano (Rep.)Michelle Taitano

“I thank Guam’s diverse and growing business community for the courage to own and manage their businesses on Guam. Businesses provide jobs for our people. I would work to continue to simplify government processes. We’ve made good strides in our efficiency, and I believe we could continue to improve every aspect of these processes to service our business community as well as attract and foster off-island businesses and investors. When government processes are further simplified, business owners and staff are able to spend more time focusing on selling their products or providing services for our community. This increases business profits creating a win-win for business owners and our government via gross receipts taxes. Inclusive of simplifying these processes is to daily maintain, update and provide real-time interactive customer service and technological support per government websites.”

 

Mary C. Torres (Rep.)Mary Torres

“Small- and medium-sized enterprises are at the heart of employment and job creation. Leveraging public-private partnerships to energize small and medium business development efforts is crucial to bolstering economic growth and development on Guam. The legislature has a major role to play, and it’s in everyone’s interest to help get the correct public policy interventions in place. One example of a micro targeted economic growth strategy would be to create tax incentives to support and expand the development and adoption of renewable energy technologies. Many people contribute to systems and their installation, and a good portion of those people are employed in small enterprises. Promoting renewable energy sources and implementing rainwater harvesting and gray water technologies will create good jobs and lower energy and operating costs. By also fostering innovation in building design, cooling technology and network demand management, Guam can position itself as an exemplar of sustainable tropical living.”

 

Nerissa B. Underwood (Dem.)Nerissa Underwood

“My platform is equal opportunity plus fair treatment equals a successful Guam. I believe that if the people of Guam are educated and given an equal chance to compete and are treated fairly, they will succeed. For our business environment, this means equitable treatment in federal contracting and a level playing field for smaller businesses in GovGuam contracting. Elected officials must be Guam advocates with federal contractors and monitor local processes. Our public policy should be facilitating the growth of new local entrepreneurship through incentives for first-time businesses. We grow private-sector development by promoting incubators, providing business training as much as we provide job training and changing the curriculum of our schools to include attention to economics. Guam needs to be promoted as an investment location for new industries through tax incentives that develop local entrepreneurs in addition to creating jobs. Our people can be part of an effective workforce, but they can also create and manage businesses.”

 

Frank T. Ungacta Jr. (Dem.)Frank Ungacta

“What I’ve been fighting for is equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities to be employed. There’s a law that says 2% of all positions in any workforce have to be filled by individuals with disabilities if possible. Senators now are saying that they want to help people get out of poverty and sustain their way of life, but it feels like they’re only talking about able-bodied people. All of the vocational development programs at [the University of Guam] and [Guam Community College] are somewhat limited in that citizens who are not able-bodied are not always able to learn. There’s an entire cross-section of people who aren’t necessarily able to pay taxes and give back to the economy. They want to work, but it’s difficult for them to improve their position and their skillsets.”