CNMI AGENCY URGED TO INVEST IN AIR CARGO

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VENTURE
Businessman Pellegrino pitches Commonwealth Development Authority

By Alexie Villegas Zotomayor SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Aug. 16, 2011) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), businessman Anthony Pellegrino made a presentation on Thursday before the Commonwealth Development Authority (CDA) board urging its participation as investor in a cargo air service venture.

[PIR editor’s note: The Commonwealth Development Authority is an autonomous public agency that provides loans to public and private ventures to promote economic development.]

"We have diamonds under our feet," said Pellegrino alluding to the prospects of developing an agricultural economy on island.

He sees farming as not just a hobby but as an industry.

"I am putting my money where my mouth is," Pellegrino told the CDA board.

His Arctic Circle Air Co. aims to transport cargo at reduced rates that will benefit local businesses, producers and growers.

He is also proposing "an integrated logistical service that connects suppliers with buyers and organizes resources to handle warehousing, packing, sales, delivery, billing, and product purchases."

The new venture will fill the void in cargo services that Cape Air and Freedom Air cannot provide, Pellegrino said.

He added that Arctic Air’s director of operations Jim Parrish was in London, England to acquire a US$400,000 aircraft "in excellent condition."

Arctic Air will bring the plane to Alaska for Federal Aviation Administration certification and then to Saipan.

Former Sen. Herman R. Deleon Guerrero, president of Guerrero Bros and Guerrero Trading, who joined Arctic Circle Air two months ago, said he liked the plan.

"I know that we have been struggling with the economy…I don’t know what else will work for us. I am convinced that this business plan will motivate the people," Deleon Guerrero said.

He cited the local ownership of Arctic Circle Air as he told the CDA board that he made a similar presentation to the Marianas Public Land Trust. "I think they are very interested."

He believes that the project will reduce the CNMI’s dependence on U.S. assistance. "Let us stop depending on handouts."

Through this venture, members of the local community will help themselves and help grow the economy, he added.

"I think this is the answer. I think it is time to do something for ourselves."

Some say that project had already been tried and met failure.

But according to Deleon Guerrero, "We just have to pull ourselves together. We can do it."

Paul Zak, who has been in charge of marketing for the new venture, said it is an opportunity for the entire commonwealth.

He told the board that a business plan will be submitted for CDA’s review.

CDA Executive Director Manuel A. Sablan told Pellegrino, Zak and Deleon Guerrero that CDA is in the process of applying for a State Small Business Credit Initiative grant and is now working with local banks.

In an interview, Sablan said the board has yet to review Pellegrino’s proposal.

The new CDA board member, former Sen. Diego M. Songao, welcomed the idea of an air cargo services for Saipan, Tinian and Rota.

He said, "I like the idea because equity is there."

He told the CDA board that transportation was and still is a problem for Rota and they had to charter planes to bring cargo to the island.

Arctic Circle Air Co. plans to acquire an existing Alaska-based cargo airline and has already secured a cargo carrier license.

It is initially planning to move cargo using a Lance Piper aircraft with a capacity of 1,100 lbs. and purchase in the near future another twin-engine aircraft capable of transporting up to 2,000 lbs. in cargo.

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