Business executives David John and George Chiu have received support on their reappointments to serve as members of the Guam Economic Development Authority's board.
The Legislative Committee on Economic Development, Agriculture, Maritime Transportation, Power and Energy Utilities, and Emergency Response, chaired by Sen. Clynt Ridgell, held a public hearing on their reappointment Monday. Speaker Tina Muña Barnes, and Sens. Therese Terlaje and Telo Taitague sat on the panel along with Ridgell.
John, who serves as chairman of the GEDA board, told the legislative panel that, if confirmed, he would continue to focus on resolving the “H-2B visa issue.” H-2B visas are for temporary skilled foreign workers. Guam's construction and health care sectors have needed workers on H-2B visas because of a shortage of skilled local labor.
Construction projects associated with the military have been able to hire workers on H-2B visas, but private sector projects that are unrelated to the military buildup have had difficulty getting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to approve their worker petitions.
John said without a resolution to the labor shortage, it would be very difficult to continue to grow the tourism industry on Guam. Three hotels are interested in moving forward with construction on Guam but don’t have the available workers, he told the panel.
“If we don’t get the workers, we are not going to get the hotels,” John said.
GEDA CEO supports both reappointments
Mel Mendiola, CEO and administrator of GEDA, was first to testify and offer support of both John and Chiu.
Mendiola called John a “capable member and leader, and an “example of an excellent corporate citizen.”
John has been the longtime president of ASC Trust, which manages retirement fund portfolios of individuals, businesses and government clients across the Micronesia region. John has served on the board for the past eight years. If confirmed, this would be his third term on the board.
Mendiola told the panel that John recognized early on that GEDA's budget would be a challenge in fiscal year 2019 and gave her the autonomy to figure out how to maximize GEDA's revenue including seeking millions of dollars in U.S. Economic Development Administration grants. She said GEDA hopes the federal EDA grants "will convert to funding for the governor's initiative this coming fiscal year.”
She said John also worked with GEDA to expand funding sources.
“I believe this is what Chairman John will continue to do in the next phase of his leadership with GEDA,” she said.
Mendiola called Chiu, who is vice president of Tan Holdings, “an invaluable" contributor to the GEDA board.
She told the panel that Chiu is “to the point and quick to seek solutions during board deliberations.”
Chiu has also served on the board for the last two terms.
The GEDA board comprises six members who are appointed by the governor to serve a four-year term if confirmed by the Legislature.