Marianas Business Journal

Q & A With Monty M. McDowell
December 12, 2005

Editor’s Note: Monty M. McDowell, is chief executive officer and principal broker for Advance Management Inc. and president of Technical Services Guam Inc. He was previously president and general manager for Advance Management. He holds a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering from the University of Washington, in Seattle, Wash. and a master’s of science in electrical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.

Q. In the eyes of the Chamber what kind of year was it?
A. We [the Guam Chamber of Commerce] still felt that we were in a recession. When the governor gave his State of the Territory Address he started out by saying, “I’m here to report …we are out of the recession.” As I sit here wearing my rose colored glasses in beautiful downtown Harmon, we are not out of the recession. When I gave my end of the year address Nov. 30 at the chamber, I stated, I work with CPAs that do my finances and financially we are not out of the recession. But is the economy good? There are still a lot of businesses on Guam having a difficult time but there are a lot of businesses on Guam that are starting to pick up some work and hiring. We are leaving the year much better than where we began the year. In 1995, the economic bubble burst in Japan and Asia and everything tumbled and Guam with it. This is the first year where we see a bit of improvement and it’s good. You see tourism numbers up; Department of Defense indications of big buildups. Things are going the way you want them to if you happen to be a resident or a businessperson on Guam.

Q. Why has privatization become so prominent on the island over the past year?
A. The chamber was instrumental in driving this. A few years ago we decided at the chamber we were going to do an economic summit. I put together a report on outsourcing and Jeff Jones [vice president of Triple J Enterprises Inc.]did one on privatization. I sent a letter to the legislature to Speaker Antonio R. Unpingco, and I said, “The chamber would like to go forth with a committee and foster this concept and I’d like to align myself with a member in the legislature. Who do you recommend?” I didn’t know Mark Forbes — senator and speaker of the 28th Guam Legislature. He called me up. We talked for an hour. He said, “Let’s get started tomorrow.” I said, “Huh? You know I got to go back to the chamber and see if they would consider this a good relationship.” The chamber agreed and [it was] Forbes and I, Jeff Jones and Robert Klitzkie, senator in the current 28th Guam legislature, who wasn’t a senator at that time, and Sen. Larry Kasperbauer. We had 30 people and we just started. We took the words “outsourcing” and “privatization” out of the closet.

Q. What other things is the private sector doing besides privatization to meet the needs not met by the government of Guam?
A. Our education committee, headed by Carl Peterson, has worked with organizations throughout the U.S. that, for a fee, would come out and do a management audit of our Guam Public School System. We don’t think Juan Flores, superintendent of the school system, the Guam Education Policy Board, the governor, and the legislature know everything that is currently occurring. We think there is probably a considerable amount of financial waste within the school system. If there wasn’t waste we could use it for the classroom or we could give it back to the taxpayers to use for other under-funded services. We have support from the policy board and from the superintendent. At GTA, we used to stand in line to pay our bill or start telephone service. You couldn’t call in. Now you go over there and you are out in minutes. That’s the private sector. You call and it seems like in very rapid fashion your problem is solved. I was at the Guam Power Authority last Friday for a meeting with John Benevente, utilities czar, and Joaquin Flores, general manager of GPA. The customer service line had at least 50 people and another 50 people were sitting in chairs waiting for customer service. That’s the public sector there. That’s our government at work. You go to the new GTA and it’s like Payless. When there is three people in a line they open another line. That is customer service

Q. What else could the government do to stimulate private business?
A. Very generally speaking. Get out of our way! No tax increases, no Gross Receipts Tax increase, no hotel occupancy taxes, no minimum wage increase, and no $3 per room to build a museum somewhere. Don’t change the economic equations. We have new hotel owners that have bought Tumon facilities and are going to invest millions of dollars and they have done all the math. They are going to sink $40 million into their structure to make it a better tourist destination to drive people into their facility. Why? To make money. Their equation says I can put $40 million in and I should get this return on these many years. I recently testified on this hotel occupancy tax, I said, “Leave it alone. Let these people do it. Don’t mess with their economic equation. That’s what brought them here. You do anything, the slightest move of hand and they may put their property up for sale again and say, “I shouldn’t have come to Guam. These people don’t understand business.” We are beat up profusely when we go to Washington D.C. When we try to sell Guam, before the Department of Defense, as a destination for more military to come here they agree that our community is great and we treat them better than any other place in the United States but they say, “Your infrastructure is one of the worst in the entire United States. Your power is immensely better but year after year when you come here your water is no better.” MBJ

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