SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Nov. 2) - Six prospective investors are reportedly coming to the CNMI next week to check out the site for some business ventures they have in mind, immediately following an investment conference organized by the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas government in Japan on Oct. 23.

Gov. Juan N. Babauta disclosed yesterday that the group has arranged to visit Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

The trip is sort of a familiarization tour, according to Babauta, adding that he will make sure to introduce the foreign delegation to key agencies and officials at the Department of Commerce.

"These are six people who were at the conference. And they've contacted our coordinator in Japan. I was told that they are coming so I'm looking forward to meeting them," said the governor.

Babauta said this is not the first batch of prospective investors to visit the CNMI, citing another group that dropped by last week to survey local banking institutions. The chief executive, however, was in Hawaii when this group was here.

Asked how many of the hundreds of entrepreneurs who attended the conference had pledged commitment to invest in the CNMI, Babauta replied that "commitment" is hard to ascertain.

"[But] they've expressed interest. They want to come to the CNMI. They talk about different things, from building a restaurant to water bottling, to mining pozzolan in Pagan.different things. There were 600 people there," he said.

The governor is poised to gather this week members of the CNMI delegation to the Japan conference to consolidate all leads gathered.

"We will make an assessment of what we did, what we could have done to make the conference better; and to follow up with potential investors who have expressed interest and to see how we can reach out to them to continue to invite them out here. We want to find out what specifically they're interested in and have all the concerned government agencies prepared to help them out," said Babauta.

Among the business ideas floated by prospective investors who attended the Japan conference included a five-star restaurant, a sports complex and a convention center.

In addition to this, Babauta reportedly received a request for tax incentives amid plans by Hyatt Regency Saipan's Japan-based owner to expand the facility in Garapan.

Babauta had the chance to meet with the hotel owner in Japan, who reportedly confirmed of plans to renovate the Hyatt.

Press secretary Peter A. Callaghan earlier reported that there is more than a 50-percent chance that the business proposals will push though.

The proposed sports complex is envisioned to attract Japanese visitors who might find appealing the prospect of sending their children to tennis, golfing or gymnastics camps at the planned facility.

"If they build the facility here, it could be the possible training ground for the 2008 Olympics because we're only 3 to 3 and 1/2 hours from Beijing. And countries like to send their teams to train nearby. Beijing in the summer is almost the same as Saipan in the summer. So if we have a sports complex built in time for that, it would be an ideal place to attract athletes," explained Callaghan.

He described the Japan conference as a well-organized event that revealed to the target audience as many information about the CNMI as possible.

The conference took place at the Hotel Okura in Tokyo.

November 3, 2003

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