Business

“Though they appear as small dots on the map today, these Virgin Islands were once the center of the world” – Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach at TechBeach Retreat

Digital nomads helped to popularize the idea that innovative business results aren’t confined to the corners of a conference room. 

Now, a collaboration between TechBeach Retreat and the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park (RTPark) has brought some of the top minds in tech to the pristine beaches of the US Virgin Islands to drive innovation and collaboration in a stunning location. 

A new site for TechBeach Retreat 

This week the TechBeach Retreat came to St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands for the first time.

The event kicked off with remarks from Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach who highlighted “Though they appear as small dots on the map today, these Virgin Islands were once the center of the world.”

“When it comes to innovation, the people here have historically created essential things from scratch, fostering a mindset of welcoming, embracing, and fostering new ideas,” he expanded. 

The US Virgin Islands (USVI) is looking to position itself as a tech center, conveniently located between the US and Latin America, and the TechBeach conference will help to bring entrepreneurs and investors together on the island to foster dialogue and build meaningful connections between attendees. 

In addition to its historical importance, St. Thomas is also known as one of the Caribbean’s premier tourist destinations, recognized for its stunning hillside sea views and world-famous Charlotte Amalie harbor – all sights that caught my eye when I touched down on the island ahead of the inaugural TechBeach Retreat.

It also struck me how St. Thomas’ offers such a unique blend of the past, present and future. As the capital of the US Virgin Islands, you can find a thriving business district downtown, the historic buildings on Main Street, and some of the most attractive sailing spots worldwide thanks to the idyllic cluster of islands. 

This sentiment was echoed in thoughts shared by Governor Albert Bryan Jr. who stated, “Lt. Governor Roach and I sought office with the goal of rebuilding trust in the Government of the Virgin Islands. A key objective is fulfilling obligations to workers, vendors, creditors, and taxpayers. Despite the impacts of COVID-19, we are pleased to have found a way to put money back into the pockets of hard-working taxpayers.”

A thriving tech hub on the Virgin Islands 

The University of the Virgin Islands RTPark represents a major strategic initiative for the United States Virgin Islands (USVI) in recent years. It’s a rapidly growing center of innovation that specializes in attracting new knowledge-based businesses to the islands, made possible thanks to a partnership between the private sector, government and education sectors on USVI. 

What’s interesting here is that RTPark has targeted a range of under-explored technology and knowledge-based sectors that are sure to make the islands an attractive destination for both business and luxury tourism for years to come.

Focus areas at the moment cover everything from health and medicine, software solutions, sustainability solutions, and financial technology, aiming to connect with technology-focused companies in these industries, with other sectors possible in future. 

Peter Chapman, the CEO of RT Park, was also keen to highlight the numerous benefits on offer for interested parties. “USVI is particularly focused on attracting investors, developing tech talent, and supporting entrepreneurs in healthcare, software, business agility, and other sectors,” he commented. 

For this reason, the TechBeach Retreat served as the perfect ground for these conversations, bringing together business leaders, entrepreneurs and tech experts for the three-day event. 

Financial incentives on the islands 

One of the reasons that RTPark is such an important project is down to its focus on appealing to impact investors in particular. In this way, they aim to deliver both financial returns and sustainable human development for the territories. The team believes that due to the small community on the islands, even a single positive venture can deliver sizable benefits for the islanders. 

To achieve this goal, federal funds and tax incentive programs are in place to support and benefit the local tech ecosystem here. US Virgin Islands Advantages include a 90% reduction in corporate and personal income tax for qualifying income, 100% exemption on other taxes, including business property and gross receipt taxes, the ability to use U.S. currency, courts, and flag protection.

Further, the team helps out with site selection, including office space for soft landings and rental space at below-market rates in sponsored industrial parks. 

And while attracting impact investors is one goal, the team also realizes the importance of cultivating local entrepreneurs to ensure the business conditions remain conducive to growth. In this regard, ambitious Virgin Islanders with big tech ideas can access The Idea Incubator and Accelerate VI Program to unlock tailored support at every stage of the business creation process. 

From longstanding initiatives like these seen at the RTPark to the entrepreneurial talent and tech veterans in attendance at TechBeach Retreat this June, it seems clear that the tech ecosystem on these stunning islands is set for bright horizons. 

Featured photo of Lt. Governor Tregenza Roach

This article includes a partner of an Espacio portfolio company

Daniela Restrepo

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