St. John small businesses face big issues

It's a small island but there are large challenges for folks running businesses. That's why the formation opt the St. John Chamber of Commerce chapter a few years ago, by Kate Norfleet, was such a good idea.

Here are some of the issues facing those who (1) manage the villa you rent, (2) operate the many fine restaurants and bars, (3) make sure gift shops and galleries have fascinating items for sale, and so on.

Issue 1: Taxes Faced with an economic disaster on St. Croix, when the Hovensa refinery closes this summer, the government's gasping for dollars. First 'bright idea', in March, was to boost the gross receipts tax one-half percent. Emphasis on the word 'gross'. The government now wants five percent of every dollar that a business takes in. If there's any profit at the end of the year, they'll take an income tax on that, too. But the Gross Receipts Tax begins with the first dollar of any sale.

Issue 2: Energy The cost of electricity on St. John is sky high, perhaps 50 cents a kilowatt or more (Check your own power bill and be prepared to gasp.). It's going to go higher, too, when Hovensa is no longer nearby, refining the oil which the Water and Power Authority burn to generate juice. Nobody believes the next oil supplier (in New Jersey?) is going to be less expensive.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Chamber wants to hear from its members how that are coping with these increasing costs. "We can all benefit from each others creative ways for survival," the Chamber told its members in an e-mail before Tuesday's meeting.

Issue 3: Parking in Cruz Bay The Port Authority is talking about putting a time limit on the parking lot across from the Post Office. Maybe 2 or 3 hours. Currently, some folks park there all day.

Issue 4: Ferry Fares Consultants say the ferry companies need help. A government subsidy or a fare increase is under study.

Finally, the Chamber says, Senator-at-Large Craig Barshinger is holding a meeting this week "to discuss 'the property tax crisis'."

Running a business on St.John may seem like a good idea. But it comes with its own set challenges, too.

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