ALMIGHTY U.S. MILITARY DOLLAR AIDS GUAM

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By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno Pacific Daily News

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (June 27, 2001 – Pacific Daily News)---The next time the USS Kitty Hawk visits Guam, think $1 million infused into the island economy every day that the aircraft carrier's here to replenish supplies, undergo minor repairs and bring more than 5,000 sailors on liberty.

That spending figure came from Guam Chamber of Commerce officials, who said they're now seeing significant gains after about 2 1/2 years of wooing increased military presence.

The aircraft carrier's visits to Guam were among a number of examples the chamber leadership gave to point to increased military spending that Guam needs as the tourism industry falters.

''The downturn in tourism has brought home to government of Guam leaders and the local population that the local economy must be diversified,'' according to a white paper that the chamber presented to officials in the Pentagon earlier this month.

''Department of Defense spending is Guam's second largest industry and is integral for future economic growth,'' it added.

Thomas Michels, chairman of the chamber board, and Eloise Baza, the organization's president, said the organization presented the white paper to Navy Vice Admiral Timothy Keating, Naval Operations deputy chief for plans, policy and operations; and Rear Admiral Joseph Kroll Jr., Naval Operations assistant deputy chief for plans, policy and operations.

The white paper articulates that there is economic merit in having increased military presence on Guam and that the island is strategically located for the forward-deployment of U.S. military forces in the Asia-Pacific theater, said Gerry Perez, chairman of the chamber's Armed Forces Committee.

''We felt very positive,'' Michels said of the Pentagon meeting. ''They were very interested in the facts that we had and the issues in the white paper.''

The white paper carries the signed endorsements of Gov. Carl Gutierrez, Speaker Antonio Unpingco and Delegate Robert Underwood, Guam's representative in the U.S. Congress.

Michels pointed to some recent and future benefits to the Guam economy as a result of increased military presence. Those include:

At its peak, Michels said, the military spent $800 million a year into the island economy, but that figure went down to about $400 million a year after military downsizing activities occurred several years ago.

Still, there's no question that military spending remains the No. 2 source of economic activity on Guam, he said.

And with recent developments, the business community is encouraged by the military's renewed interest in Guam.

Though the Guam Chamber of Commerce isn't taking all the credit for the military's recent moves, Michels said the organization's efforts did have what he called ''a very favorable impact.''

''I'd like to say also that we've been fortunate that both Navy and Air Force leadership and the local government leadership have been very supportive of our efforts,'' he said.

A chamber survey also showed that 83 percent of island residents surveyed agreed that the military makes a positive contribution to Guam, and supported increased military activity here.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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