Announcing that Cabinet has approved a further medium-term economic package for the small business sector, Hon. Minister for Commerce and Infrastructure Joey Hew on Tuesday officially opened the new Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development (CICBD).
Located at the Baytown Plaza on West Bay Rd, the CICBD was already operating virtually since March this year, responding to the needs of small businesses during the pandemic.
Now its doors are open with the centre providing a variety of support services for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Initially, 300 small businesses assessed as competitive post COVID-19 will be the beneficiaries of the programme announced by Mr Hew.
It will be funded out of the remaining micro and small business grant set up by the government to assist SMEs through the economic downturn.
“With the launch of the CIBDC, we are working in a concrete and targeted way through a new phase of support that will benefit Caymanians and our economy,” Min. Hew stated.
It's been observed that small businesses are the backbone of any economy, and the official opening of the CICBD is seen as an essential component of what Cayman needs to get its economy moving again after COVID 19.
Small businesses, (employing a dozen people or less) and micro businesses (staffed by up to four people) account for well over a third of Cayman’s workforce.
RECOGNITION OF SMEs
According to the Commerce Minister, “The establishing of the Cayman Islands Centre for Business Development is an acknowledgement by this government of the importance of small businesses here in these islands.”
“The Global pandemic has made the Centres mandate of improving and proving the economic value of small businesses in the islands even more urgent,” he added.
Since it was first set up, the CICBD's business advisors have been conducting daily virtual coaching and training sessions focusing on business continuity for the many micro and small business owners impacted by COV ID-19.
Those sessions focused on areas such as cash flow management, business impact analysis, and transitioning business online for entrepreneurs who need to redesign or retool their business models.
The Centre also coordinated Government relief measures which were allocated to support the micro and small business grant programme, a low-interest loan programme, as well as technical and training programmes.
Mr Hew pointed out that over the past months, the government has allocated over $14 million to support micro and small businesses.
“We extended the small business support programme, and temporarily waived trade and business licensing fees for new businesses and renewals as well as late fees with a total value of $375,000.”
The new phase of support for small and micro businesses will cover wage, digital enablement, commercial rent assistance, business process innovation grants and customised business continuity plans for micro and small businesses across the islands.
Several hundred small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have already benefited from the funding, services and expertise offered by the CICBD.
According to one observer present at the opening ceremony, new businesses are vitally important after a crisis like COVID – 19 which disrupts ‘business-as-usual,’ as they can quickly fill new market niches. They are seen as “the seedlings of tomorrow’s economic forests and like all seedlings, they need to be protected, nurtured, and watered.”
“And that’s precisely what CIBCD does,” it was stated during a tour of the agency’s facilities.
Commerce and Infrastructure Joey Hew said, “One of Government’s major strategic priorities is harnessing the creativity of Caymanians to build innovative and sustainable businesses so as to increase global competitiveness.”
“Today with the opening of this location we are able to realise this goal with space that will integrate offices for business advisors, a training room, and a residential business incubator that will house up to 12 start-ups for a period of up to two years, free of charge to them.”
A MAJOR INITIATIVE
Hon. Premier Alden McLaughlin called it “a major initiative of our government.”
In commending Min. Hew for bringing it to fruition, he declared:
“We are very pleased that the minister has managed, despite all of the challenges of COVID 19, to open the Centre today. You find that without the training and the support most start-ups just never survive beyond the initial stage because the people involved, while they are very good at what they do, whatever service they provide or whatever product they produce, they don’t necessarily know how to run a business.”
Premier McLaughlin the CIBCD address that problem. “This will provide them with that kind of structure and training and the opportunity for creation of skills in business development.”
AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME
Director of the CICBD, Althea West-Myers said the Centre's opening has been long in the making.
“Today we are heralding an idea whose time has come,” she stated.
“The critical role that Cayman's SME's will play in bringing these Islands back to global competitiveness cannot be overstated. For the economy to survive and thrive, the sector and the ecosystem in which it exists must be stimulated. It is not surprising therefore that the establishment and promotion of small businesses have been given strategic importance by this government.”
The CICBD director urged the small businesses to avail themselves of the services available to them through the agency.
“They just have to recognize they are in need of some kind of help some kind. We are open to all small businesses and every small business in the Cayman Islands can benefit from our services. We like to think that we take it from the concept stage to market.”