• By Bea Cabrera

Guam, CNMI emerging as tech hubs


Guam and the CNMI are in the midst of diversifying industries, looking at other opportunities that will help boost the economy besides tourism industry, which for many years has been the only economic driver for both U.S. territories.

Turning the Marianas into a tech hub that will consist of technology companies from the mainland shows great potential that can change economies and lives.

More tech companies from the mainland are seeing Guam and the CNMI as good places to invest and expand their offices, according to Franklin Arriola, CEO of Menhalom LLC, which specializes in data base application development in the mainland and founder of Pacific Region Initiative Market Opportunities in the Marianas.

“The Marianas have been talking about diversification for many years now even before the pandemic came about. We knew that there is military build-up on one hand and visitors or tourists that were very robust on the other hand. When Covid-19 hit, our tourism industry was gone and now we are in almost emergency mode to get other industries squared up and diversify,” Arriola said, speaking at Docomo Pacific's webinar titled "Diversify Now: Growing Our Economy" held earlier today.

“The CNMI community relied on the casino for a number of years. We knew clearly that there will be a lot of challenges to try and sustain the CNMI economy. About June 2018, our group ARI, saw an RFP for companies to provide professional advisory services to the CNMI government. Along the way, the team and myself thought we could be successful and find ways on how we can help the CNMI government standing up and providing more of a secure industry in the community,” he added.

Arriola said in the middle part of 2019 he approached Intelisecure, a cybersecurity company based in Colorado. “lf we are coming out to Saipan to participate in the RFP, we thought we can be successful as we move along and encourage other companies to move in the CNMI with us from June 2019 to January 2020, Intelisecure was able to set up operations in the CNMI to compliment other Intelisecure operating centers in London and Colorado,” he said.

“Their primary business is in the cybersecurity data protection. They opened shop in January this year and started with five or six employees who were trained locally in the CNMI under the Latte Training academy. We knew that these were important for Intellisecure as a start up and to get them into a system in that regard,” he added.

After helping Intelisecure set up in the CNMI, ARI was officially notified that they have secured the RFP.

“Around that time, the leadership of ARI thought that we want to develop this concept, talk to decision makers from U.S.-based cybersecurity data companies, get their interest to relocate their business in the CNMI. All of us in ARI and executive team have experience in the Artificial Intelligence business with special interest in telecommunications and Information Technology. We thought of opening a call center like those in the Philippines, Thailand etc. but we decided to stick with information technology which is a clean industry,” he said.

“We call it clean industry because all you are moving are digital data and you are not bringing in any kind of trash or waste product. We wanted to focus on that area. In this industry, what you want to do is either moving or protecting data or you are moving and protecting money. It’s clean as it runs through the fiber optic cables and this is how we identified which potential company are we going to look for. To date, there are other web based companies that are looking at the Marianas to set up shop,” he added.

Arriola said that the IT and AI infrastructure in the Marianas is possible with partnership with Docomo Pacific Pacific. “Being one of our partners, Docomo helped set up Intelisecure’s program in Saipan, putting in fibers in the building to accommodate infrastructure and 5G universe that will definitely sustain whatever Guam and CNMI is going to put together as we move forward into diversification.”

“The Marianas is next in line. We are branded as ‘American Asia.’ There is available labor or workforce, prevailing wages are much lower and we follow the 27/7 sun model-when they close office in the East Coast, we continue the business as our day has just begun. It all comes together there,” he added.

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