Pillars of Prosperity and the Perfect Storm
Pillars of Prosperity and the Perfect Storm
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!
"...in light of current economic conditions, it is of vital importance to foster a mindset of self-sufficiency among the people of the CNMI, one that places value on our natural resources and talents, as well as the ideas that exist right here. We must focus on the things that make us unique, find the value in them, and offer them to the rest of the world. ...it is the only viable long-term strategy for economic growth that exists..." -Walt Goodridge (Saipan Tribune, April 12, 2006)
My friend Mike T. used the term "pillars of prosperity" recently to describe where his own passion (diving) fit into his vision of what we both refer to as "The New Saipan." My other friend, Harry B, used the term "perfect storm" (coined by Sebastian Junger) to describe the unique combination of events, conditions and challenges facing the CNMI at this moment in time-tourism decline, industry flight, federalization, power challenges, etc.
In the aftermath of this perfect storm, new businesses will be launched. New approaches will be tried. New ways of generating income will present themselves and a new era will emerge. It will happen.
As this small nation within a nation makes the transition to this new era, there will be many visions and many voices of what should be or not be. The New Saipan Agenda is nothing more than one collection of voices, nothing less than a grand combined vision for what Saipan and the entire CNMI will become beyond the storm.
So today I’d like you to join with me, if you will, a few years in the future, as we look back on what happened when we built our pillars of prosperity to weather the perfect storm.
Back from the Future
[excerpt from a future edition of the Saipan Tribune, date to be determined]
1. Pillar I-Tourism
Tourism had traditionally been one of Saipan’s pillars, and continued to be-albeit, with some expansion. Along with the traditional tourism model, the New Saipan began to develop the following:
Ecotourism, also known as ecological tourism, is a form of tourism that appeals to the ecologically and socially conscious. Generally speaking, ecotourism focuses on local culture, wilderness adventures, volunteering, personal growth, and learning new ways to live on the planet; typically involving travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions. Responsible ecotourism includes programs that minimize the negative aspects of conventional tourism on the environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people. Therefore, in addition to evaluating environmental and cultural factors, an integral part of ecotourism is in the promotion of recycling, energy efficiency, water conservation, and creation of economic opportunities for the local communities. [from wikipedia]
Saipan, with its native beauty, coral reefs and local culture was recognized as an ideal place to implement such an eco-tourism campaign. All it took were a few committed "tree-huggers" (united through Beautify CNMI!), joining forces with creative-thinking entrepreneurs, along with a supportive administration to create an environment for such an industry to flourish.
Taking advantage of Saipan’s strategic location and the unique mix of cultures, languages, lifestyles and its relationship with the US, Saipan became a business training, language immersion and cross-cultural education center for its closest Asian neighbors-China, Korea and Japan.
It started slowly, but soon word spread and thousands of business owners, travelers and students flocked to our shores each year to experience our unique education and business training. Emerging markets in China proved a particularly great opportunity. Saipan’s edutourism industry was key in helping China make the transition from a centrally planned to market-oriented economy able to compete on the world stage.
Additional U.S. troops deployed in this region presented a new market opportunity. At first people thought the best opportunities existed on those islands where the troops were actually stationed. However, people soon came to realize that everyone likes a good vacation, and began highlighting Saipan more as an "R&R" (rest and relaxation) getaway for our men and women in the armed forces. With the help of the military to make inter-island travel more affordable, we saw a rise in the troop visits and a boost in the economy.
World Class Diving
Our proximity to the Marianas Trench, the shore diving, the coral reefs, the unique underwater world that the Marianas islands offers became great selling points to attract scuba diving enthusiasts to Saipan, Tinian and Rota. We were able to expand the Japan market and also, through the power of the web and some great “Web 2.0” marketing strategies were actually able to see a rise in US mainland divers traveling all the way here just to experience what we’ve always known, and have now proven to the world: "Nothing beats a Marianas dive!"
2. Pillar II-Power
"Powered by Paradise"
Who would have thought that Saipan could have become a world showcase for the intelligent sustainable use of natural resources to generate power?! It was all the more impressive given that just a short while before, we were reeling from rising fuel costs, failing generators, high power bills and rolling blackouts.
The shift started with the passage of Public Law 15-23 which allowed "net metering" and gave people the opportunity to "sell" their excess power back to the local power company. A few trendsetters started with solar panels and wind turbines installed on their homes. Hotels got together to feed their own excess capacity back into the grid. A mindset of alternative solutions grew, and more people used windmills, solar panels, even generators powered by coconut oil to meet their power needs. We used the very things that made us a paradise-sunlight, tropical breezes, waves and vegetation-to create power. Imagine that! We became a paradise island powered by paradise!
3. Pillar III-Culture
At first, the fears of federalization brought to the forefront concerns about cultural dilution and extinction. It then brought to light the need for more concerted efforts to preserve that culture. It included marketing campaigns to promote local culture as a tourist attraction as well as campaigns to increase business ownership among the local population. Restaurants, tour experiences and even a Chamorro/Carolinian homestay bed and breakfast network all developed around a theme of "culture consciousness."
4. Pillar IV-Health
And of course, everyone realized that none of these pillars and opportunities made sense to build if the people themselves were not healthy enough to enjoy them. The health of a nation's people is perhaps the most important pillar of prosperity. With successful paradise-based, culturally-sensitive, alternative health campaigns, Saipan’s residents moved back to a more natural diet and indigenous methods healing, reversing decades of the ill-effects of a western diet which resulted in the decline of diabetes cases. Then, along the same theme of harnessing paradise, spas and healing centers popped up offering unique rejuvenation that focused on the benefits of sunlight, fresh air, natural diet, fruits and herbs. Success stories of reclaimed health and vitality made international news.
5. Pillar V-Business
All of this new activity was sparked by, and also led to new business opportunities and entrepreneurial thinking here in the CNMI. People stopped asking "What will be the next industry THEY start on Saipan?" and instead asked "What sort of business can I start?" Entrepreneurs started tourism-based businesses, some sold alternative energy supplies and services, others fixed up their homes to accommodate visitors, and still others offered “paradise healing” and rejuvenation to tourists eager for new experiences.
The field became wide open for a diverse set of businesses and industries including, but not limited to:
Coconut oil as fuel production
Expanded tourism (eco, edu, military)
Call Centers/Language Centers
Even high-tech businesses started by Internet and technology-savvy high school and college graduates. (Just as San Jose in northern California became known as Silicon Valley because of the high number of silicon chip manufacturers and eventually high tech businesses it spawned, could Saipan-making a play on the Marianas Trench connection-be our region’s "Silicon Trench?" Only time and intention will tell.)
Yes, it was a great thing to witness this redefining and re-branding of a nation-this thing we now call the New Saipan. And it started as nothing more than a thought.
The New Saipan was a vision. It was an intention. It was a goal. It was a commitment shared by people of like mind to create a bold new vision of the future starting immediately. It was a plan to embrace change, harness natural resources, preserve the gold, and move beyond the perceptions and limitations of the past. It was a mindset that sought to empower rather than exploit. And, most importantly, it was a strategy based on the belief that everything we needed to prosper was already right here.
And now, we stand here today poised on the verge of a new era in our history; a new definition of our land and our people which we ourselves were instrumental in bringing to fruition. We weathered the perfect storm. And we are stronger for it.
Welcome to the future. Forget what you’ve heard. This is the New Saipan!
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Until next time, remember, success is a journey, not a destination!-Walt