Robert Underwood, former Guam delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives and current candidate for the position, released his economic platform Thursday.
Underwood's plans include:
• re-engaging Guam's representation with the Department of Defense, in part to ensure the military hires local workers and local contractors and engineering firms, and that local taxes are paid for work that is done locally;
• pursuing a new immigration district for Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands for better management of workers and migrants, but more importantly to facilitate the visitor industry; and
• focusing on Guam residents' own intellectual skills and entrepreneurial spirit.
"This was made clear to me during my 10 years at the University of Guam," Underwood stated. "Our young people don't want to work for the government, they want to work for themselves. They want to use their advanced knowledge in product and service development. They want to use their technology skills in ways unimaginable to some. They offer the best route to economic diversification."
He added, "The knowledge economy is defined as an economy in which growth is dependent upon the quantity, quality and accessibility of information rather than the means of production ... knowledge itself is the producer of an economy. Young entrepreneurs know this and many are adapting very well."
Underwood spoke about his economic plans at the Rotary Club of Guam meeting on Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Guam.
"I have been told I'm too old to run for Congress and I look around this room and I figure no, I'm about the right age," said the 72-year-old, jokingly, to the Rotarians and their guests.
'Crisis of the century'
Underwood, who was president of UOG from 2008 to 2018, also touched on the hardships many are facing on the island.
"We are in the middle of a pandemic and this pandemic is creating the crisis of the century. People are worried about what is going to happen to their health care. They are worried about what's going to happen especially in a couple of weeks. Families are worried about how they are going to handle their kids, they are worried about their jobs. Some of them don't even have jobs now and they are making decisions about food and gas and medicine, and those are very wrenching decisions," he said.
Underwood acknowledged that business owners are also struggling.
"All of you are decision-makers, are business leaders, and those tools have been basically taken out of your hands by this pandemic. That's a serious issue because now you are making gut-wrenching decisions about investments and employment and hours, and you are looking at a young breadwinner and saying, 'Maybe we don't have the hours for you,'" Underwood said.
The candidate gave kudos to CNMI Del. Gregorio Sablan for helping to secure nearly $1 billion in federal funds for Guam and the CNMI during the pandemic.
"At present, we are being rescued by the federal government and that CARES package," Underwood said. "And I have to say that the leading delegate in pushing that CARES package and modifying it for the territories was Del. 'Kilili' Sablan from the Northern Marianas, who led the fight, who wrote the letters, who made amendments, who worked as hard as he could to modify that."
He ended with a message to the people of Guam: "I make this commitment to you. I will always be present and accounted for in the House; to always work with you, and to always be your representative in Washington, D.C. Our vision in Washington, D.C., should be ours, together."