In the weeks after Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused widespread damage to businesses throughout the territory, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith has repeatedly assured private sector leaders that government will stand behind them in the rebuilding effort.

That assurance has come in several forms, including direct meetings like the one Dr. Smith (R-at-large) had with Second District business owners on Tuesday.

“I believe we had a healthy conversation about their needs, but also how government can improve our present outreach in support of businesses getting up and running and also the rebuild of the territory,” the premier said about the meeting in a Wednesday statement.

Dr. Smith, who was scheduled to meet with Sea Cows Bay business owners on Wednesday, has also outlined some plans for direct government support to businesses across the Virgin Islands.

“If assistance is needed for those businesses to get up and running to serve the community, the Trade Department is asking business owners to visit the department, where they can schedule an appointment with a trade inspector to visit their business for an assessment of support needed,” he explained in the Tuesday statement.

The Trade Department’s business centre will also soon be operational and able to host businesses that need basic space to complete administrative tasks, the premier added.

Additionally, Dr. Smith explained that the Trade Department has identified priority areas of industry critical to supporting the community. These include grocery stores; restaurants and bakeries; construction companies; furniture stores; hardware stores; cleaning companies and laundromats; auto repair businesses; beauty salons and barber shops; and beauty supply stores.

At a press conference on Friday, Dr. Smith, who also serves as the minister of finance, announced that government will create a fund through which businesses will be able to apply for loans by Oct. 6.