Saipan-- The Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration today announced a $21.2 million grant to the Northern Mariana Islands to help revive the commonwealth's tourism industry, which has been battered by Covid-19, a series of typhoons and other natural disasters.
EDA said the grant is expected to create 480 jobs.
“The travel and tourism industry is vital to America’s economic recovery and the Biden Administration is working round the clock to support its growth and success,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo.
She added that the infrastructure funded with the investment will support the CNMI's preparation for the 2021 Pacific Mini Games, as well as other events in the years ahead.
“The 2018 impact of Super Typhoon Yutu was devastating to the economy of the Northern Mariana Islands,” said Dennis Alvord, acting assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development.
Alvord said the project will support the CNMI's ongoing recovery by providing the resources needed to complete the redevelopment of the Oleai Sports Complex.
This project is funded by the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act of 2019, which provided EDA with $600 million in additional Economic Adjustment Assistance Program funds for disaster relief and recovery for areas affected by Hurricanes Florence, Michael, and Lane, typhoons Yutu and Mangkhut, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, and other major natural disasters occurring in calendar year 2018, and tornadoes and floods occurring in the calendar year 2019.
“We are tremendously grateful to the EDA as this funding assistance my administration applied for will provide for a state-of-the-art sports complex and a cultural events site and will greatly benefit our local athletes as we position the CNMI to grow our sports tourism and cultural tourism industries,” Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres said.
Torres said the sports complex, which will be one of the most advanced in the region, will make the CNMI a highly attractive training destination and allow for the hosting of large-scale regional sport events.
"The cultural event site will be a dedicated place for an annual calendar of local, regional, and international cultural and arts events within the Pacific, as well as a venue to foster entrepreneurial activities in the arts and cultural sector," the governor said. "Most importantly, it will be a place on the central part of our island to encourage everyone in our community to get fit and live a healthy lifestyle."
With the grant award, the governor said the CNMI's main industry is positioned to recovery.
“Tourism is the primary economic activity in the Marianas, but tourism can take many forms,” Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan said. “Today’s grant to build a sport and cultural center will help us diversify the kinds of visitors we can attract to the Marianas and help us offer more diverse experiences for visitors to our islands. The new complex will, also, give our own residents new opportunities to stay fit and be competitive.”