Investments return to the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (USVIEDA) continues to promote the Territory as a premier business location for companies looking to expand or relocate. As a result of USVIEDA’s efforts in to grow the local economy, two new companies, FarmPodand Leatherback Brewing Company, are launching their businesses there with products ready to hit the market.
“We are excited about having two new innovative companies locate in the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said Wayne L. Biggs, acting chief executive officer, the U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority. “Both, FarmPod and Leatherback Brewing Company, are great and valuable additions to the USVI as we continue to grow a thriving and flourishing economy in the territory.”
Mike Straight, CEO of the high-tech agricultural startup FarmPod, is transforming the future of farming by developing food production system that runs on solar energy and rainwater. The pod, which utilizes a very small footprint (the size of one parking space), is fully automated and based on advanced aquaponics technologies that create a natural cycle between fish and plants. FarmPods can produce more than 100 pounds of organic fruits and vegetables and mercury free fish per week, have the ability to be monitored from a smartphone. In addition to, FarmPod can benefit areas dealing with a scarcity of natural resources where the consumption of fresh produce is low, and is ideal for restaurants, resorts, hospitals, churches, community gardens, and schools.
“USVI’s tax incentives and ideal weather conditions make ita perfect place for growing a sustainable food production company,” said Mike Straight, CEO of the high-tech agricultural startup FarmPod. “We see opportunities to collaborate locally and plan to partner with the University of the Virgin Islands, which has one of the nation’s top aquaponics programs, to expand the production.”
Known for its rum, the USVI will now be home to Leatherback Brewing Company, a new regional brewer offering locally brewed beer featuring local ingredients. Leatherback plans to become a major brewer in the Caribbean region. The brewery will be offering lager and IPA style beers that will be canned and labeled onsite at the brewery. It will also produce seasonal specialty beers with local ingredients such as chocolate and toasted coconut from Grenada and sorrel from different parts of the Caribbean. Leatherback Brewing Company will produce 10,000 barrels of beer yearly, which equals 140,000 cases of beer or a little more than one million cans per year. In addition to the brewery, the company has a tasting room, indoor/outdoor bar with an outdoor patio that incorporates a special event field.
“U.S. Virgin Island is an ideal place for entrepreneurs seeking a healthy work-life balance. Being able successfully launch the Virgin Island’s first distributing brewery and hit the beach after work is priceless to me,” said Packy Gilbert, managing partner at Leatherback Brewing Co.
FarmPod and Leatherback Brewing Company are located in the USVIEDA’s Economic Development Park in St. Croix, which offers an excellent industrial and office space at lease rates far lower than the market rates. Both companies were in the process of building their facilities during Hurricanes Irma and Maria. While they were impacted by the hurricanes, in addition to receiving incentives offered by USVIEDA, the companies cite skilled workforce, ideal climate, proximity to the airport and port as some of the factors that led to them locating in the USVI.
USVIEDA offers the Economic Development Commission Tax Incentive program that provides a reduction of up to 90 percent of personal and corporate income taxes and up to a 100% exemption on excise, business property and gross receipt taxes. As of the fiscal year 2017, USVIEDA approved more than $11.1 million in loan guarantees to help local small businesses get access to funding, sustain, and grow. Funds from this program, the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI), helped small businesses with equipment, inventory, construction, renovations, and much more.
To learn more about USVIEDA’s funding of local businesses, visit www.usvieda.org.
The United States Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (USVIEDA) is a semi-autonomous government organization responsible for the promotion and enhancement of economic development in the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization acts an umbrella authority that integrates and unifies the functions of the five agencies under one executive board in order to maximize efficiency and enhance economic development in the Territory. The five major agencies are the Economic Development Commission; Virgin Islands Economic Park Development Corporation (formerly the Industrial Park Development Corporation); Economic Development Bank (formerly the Government Development Bank and the Small Business development Agency); Enterprise Zone Commission; and the Economic Development Commission (EDC). The EDC offers unique tax incentivesfor qualified businesses. Benefits of the EDC program include a reduction of up to 90% of personal and corporate income taxes and up to a 100% exemption on excise, business property and gross receipt taxes. For additional information visit, USVIEDA.