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The Last Garment Factory is Closing!

The only way to take control of your life, raise your standard of living and move beyond merely surviving is to create your own unique product or service that you offer to increasing numbers of people in exchange for the things of value that you desire. This simple formula applies to countries as well as people. A self-sufficient economy has its own products or services of value to export to the world. Similarly, a self-sufficient individual has something of value to exchange in the global marketplace. That thing of value is based on your natural talent, skill, or interest—in other words, your passion!

The last garment factory is closing
Bid the SEWers forever goodbye
And this chapter will end
and we’ll turn a new bend
as the end of an era draws nigh

The last garment factory is closing
Goes the bitter along with the sweet
Controversy and fraud?
Opportunity abroad?
Stories change with each person you meet

The last garment factory is closing
Some will say not a moment too soon
But from those who worked hard
daily seams and time cards
come the words of a whole different tune

The last garment factory is closing
Ask the girls what they thought of it all
Most will say they were glad
for the chance that they had
and are sad that things slowed to a crawl

The last garment factory is closing
Off to cheaper, more profit-filled climes
Shall we toast its demise?
Do we seek a reprise?
Or just strive now to make better times?

The last garment factory is closing
What on earth is our island to do?
Let our leaders contrive
a new plan to survive
so the nation can flourish anew!

The last garment factory is closing
Let us hope now the future is kind
Let the Saipan of past
be re-shaped and recast
in an image that let’s us all shine!

Over the past several months, I’ve had the unique opportunity of transcribing and editing a unique story chronicling one young Chinese lady’s journey as a garment factory worker here on Saipan. Beyond what I learned about the Chinese language, culture and worldview, it’s a fascinating experience to hear and contrast what those who are actually working in factories have to say with what is typically reported in the media.

Many of the (predominantly Chinese) women I’ve interviewed, have expressed a fairly consistent opinion of life as garment factory workers: They appreciate the chance to earn more money here than they could in their home countries; they feel the resident population doesn’t like them being here; but they would like to keep working here because of the money, and a certain freedom they have that is hard to find back home, that they’ve grown accustomed to, and that would actually make reintegrating into Chinese society more difficult.

The peaks and valleys of the 25 years of garment factory operations here on Saipan is a story well worth telling—from as many perspectives as possible. The industry’s pivotal, and undeniable role and impact on Saipan’s current reputation, brand identity, and image is worthy of analysis, as we strive to recreate that reputation and identity in the years ahead.

This has and continues to be a pivotal month of change. Over the span of just a few days we will have witnessed the declaration of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument (Jan. 6), the closure of the last garment factory (Jan. 15), a final determination on the Guam-CNMI visa waiver program (Jan. 16), MLK Day (Jan. 19) made more poignant and timely given Barack Obama’s game-changing inauguration (Jan. 20), all within the framework of a continuing economic crisis. Yes, change is in the air both here and abroad. Are you ready?

Today’s “life rhyme” is a reminder that every change comes with different opinions and perspectives, impacts, and (at least) two sides to every issue that, if overlooked, lessen the lesson we can learn by incorporating everyone’s viewpoint. The Last Garment Factory is Closing is a metaphor for life’s periods of transition, for seeking out others’ perspectives, and of moving forward armed with a renewed purpose to seek out new options, and make things better than they were before.

There is always opportunity amid change.

Note: There is actually one other factory that has officially suspended its operations until further notice, and may, in fact, be “the last man standing,” some time after Jan 15. Stay tuned.

Note: Visit www.saipanfactorygirl.com for more details on the book, Chicken Feathers and Garlic Skin.

For more tips on overcoming your fears, acting on your ideas, changing the game, and creating a passion-centered lifestyle, visit www.passionprofit.com!


Until next week, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!

Walt F.J. Goodridge is author of 12 books including Turn Your Passion Into Profit. Walt offers coaching and workshops to help people pursue and profit from their passions. Originally from the island of Jamaica, Walt has grown several successful businesses in the US, and now makes his home here in Saipan. To learn more about the Saipanpreneur Project and Walt’s philosophy and formula visit www.saipanpreneur.com and www.passionprofit.com.


Send article suggestions, entrepreneur nominations and feedback about this article to walt@passionprofit.com.

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Located in the western pacific, a short flight from Guam and 3 hours from Japan, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) is a popular tourist destination rich in history, culture and natural resources. Saipan, just 5 miles wide by 12 miles long, is the largest and most populated of the 14 islands making up an archipelago that stretches 400 miles (north to south) along the edge of the Marianas Trench.

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