University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park receives award from the International Economic Development Council
News > The Caribbean
By STEM Caribbean | Posted on October 22, 2020
The University of the Virgin Islands Research and Technology Park (RTPark) has been recently honored with the Economic Development Organization (EDO) of the Year award by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). The IEDC is the largest non-profit membership organization of its kind serving economic developers. The organization has over 5,000 members.
Each year, IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world’s best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the most influential leaders. 35 award categories honor individuals and organizations creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities.
“The winners of IEDC’s Excellence in Economic Development awards represent the very best of economic development and exemplify the ingenuity, integrity, and leadership that our profession strives for each and every day,” said 2020 IEDC Board Chair and One Columbus CEO Kenny McDonald. “We’re honored to recognize the more than 100 communities whose marketing campaigns, projects, and partnerships have measurably improved regional quality of life.”
This year’s winners were announced during the IEDC Annual Conference held virtually with over 1,400 economic development professionals. There were over 500 submissions from four countries. The RTPark was the Gold Award recipient for EDO of the Year with a population size of 25,000 – 200,000.
“We’re honored and humbled to receive such significant recognition from IEDC. Being selected as EDO of the Year is a resounding validation of the RTPark’s evolution over these past two years into a truly comprehensive tech-focused economic development organization that is having a measurable impact on the Virgin Islands economy. This award is also a testament to the dynamic and talented team of professionals we’ve attracted to the RTPark since 2018,” said Peter H. Chapman, Executive Director and CEO of the RTPark.
The RTPark is an independent affiliate of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) established in 2002. This innovative economic development organization was formed to help diversify and expand the U.S. Virgin Islands’ economy. Progress towards these goals include efforts to promote the attraction, retention, and growth of companies focused on technology, knowledge, and sustainable agriculture.
Recently, RTPark launched the U.S. Virgin Island’s (USVI) first accelerator for startups, Accelerate VI, which has supported 14 startups thus far. The organization also launched VI STEM Kids, a coding program for youth from low-moderate income homes.
Other initiatives by the RTPark include VISTA+, an online database and network that connects Virgin Islanders in tech around the world with opportunities to work in the USVI.
“The RTPark Board of Directors has witnessed first-hand the growth of the RTPark’s team, programming, as well as its impact on the technology ecosystem in the Territory and the diversification of our local economy. In such a short time, the organization’s ability to build capacity and launch new programs, including Accelerate VI, VI STEM Kids and VISTA+, fall in line with economic development best practices all over the world. IEDC’s celebration of their hard work is very fitting and we are grateful for the recognition,” said RTPark Board of Directors Chairman, Edward Thomas.
Not only does the organization contribute to USVI economic development, but it also provides the UVI with financial support and training opportunities for students at the university to broaden the capabilities of the UVI.
Partners and local public officials commended the organization and its team for their work and commitment to building a stronger USVI economy.
Virgin Islander and Vice President of Global Markets at IBM, Rashida Hodge, expressed what it’s been like working with RTPark. She recently partnered with the organization on it’s newly launched youth engagement program, VI STEM Kids.
“This recognition is a true test mark of the profound work the RTPark team is driving to ensure technology is a cornerstone of the Virgin Islands community,” said Hodge. “It has been an honor to partner with them on establishing sustainable efforts for the benefit of students in our community to gain access and see the rich potential of STEM opportunities.”
Industry-recognized influencers like Virgin Islander and Global Product Lead at Google, Andrea G. Russell, also commended the RTPark.
“I’m really proud of the work that RTPark is doing and happy to support them as a mentor,” said Russell. “Technology can sometimes feel foreign or exclusive and the RTPark is working with the community to demonstrate that Virgin Islanders have a unique viewpoint and can be a part of innovating for the future.”
A statement by the RTPark highlights that the organization has positioned itself as a model for economic development programs in the Caribbean and beyond as it continues to involve the local community and local entrepreneurs in its programs and projects and develop talent that cares about local economic development.