Goodness Gracious, Guam!

Goodness Gracious, Guam!

Why you should care

Because you’re about to learn something new and important about Guam — which you probably didn’t have in your pocket before.

The U.S. territory of Guam is only about three times the size of Washington, D.C. But weirdly, it could be booming. Guam’s population is quite smaller than most major U.S. cities at only about 161,000 people. But 2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that:

Guam’s economy grew

24%

over five years.

Not bad for an island with about half the population of St. Louis, Missouri. In 2012 alone, Guam’s economy generated $7.7 billion in revenue, compared to $6.2 billion in 2007, according to census data. So why is this strategically positioned island booming in an under-the-radar sort of way?

Praise the tourists. Guam’s economic growth owes a great deal to tourism over more than a quarter-century, according to the Guam Economic Development Authority . Annual visitors top 1.3 million people with a lot of focus on attracting tourists from Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Add that to visa waivers for Russian visitors and new direct flights from Beijing this summer — and you’ve got a destination in the making. In Guam, you can explore its Chamorro culture, World War II historical sites and scenic terrain.

Plus, construction growth is also notable across the island, thanks to its military connections. The federal government has invested some serious dough in two base facilities, a National Guard facility, a new military hospital and new educational facilities. Local media in Guam report that 90 percent of the island had construction activity between January and March of this year, amounting to $77.7 million. And it’s not all military construction: Guam officials reportedly cite much of that cash as non-military projects.

Statue of Chief Gadao paddling in a boat, Saluaglula Beach Park, Guam.

Statue of Chief Gadao, Guam

Source Keren Su/Corbis

But there’s almost no job growth to speak of. And three in four working Guamanians are in the private sector; a lot of those jobs support tourism and construction.

“There has been a lot of naysaying about our island — those who don’t believe that good things are happening and good things are coming,” Guam Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo said in a statement. “I hope this black and white data can show the doubters that Guam is moving in the right direction.”

So while it might not yet be time to ditch Silicon Valley or Wall Street to head to this island territory, maybe we should pay a little more attention to the economic potential of U.S. territories like Guam. With the “Asian Tigers” — economies of Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan — becoming more and more prominent, Guam’s proximity to Asia is a huge geographic advantage.

Not to mention, Guam’s warm-year-round climate is looking pretty tempting.

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