It has been said small businesses are the backbone of a healthy economy. So on Wednesday (4 October), business leaders and government officials convened to consider the feasibility of setting up a Small Business Development Centre for small and micro-business in the Cayman Islands.
“A thriving small and micro-business sector makes a vital contribution to our economy,” said Commerce Minister Hon. Joey Hew in his introductory remarks.
To support these small businesses, Mr. Hew told Cayman 27 Government has committed an unspecified amount of cash in the 2018 budget for the development of a Small Business Development Centre (SBDC).
“This is an additional, if you want to call it, hand holding center for persons who are continuing to work through and developing their small businesses with the Chamber of Commerce and with the Small Business Association,” he said.
He told Cayman 27 the SBDC will be there to help business owners navigate government agencies, and when a business is ready for expansion.
“We can prepare the clients and work along with the lending institutions so that the lending institutions have the peace of mind to know that they have gone through the program and that they are prepared, these businesses are prepared and somewhat vetted,” said Mr. Hew.
“The lenders have to have the confidence that those businesses understand their business, they are growing it, and they are supporting their projections for growth,” said the workshop’s keynote speaker Al Sagado.
Mr. Sagado, Director of the Southwest Texas SBDC Network, told Cayman 27 the model has been used for three decades in the US and in Latin America, and can be tailored to suit a particular jurisdiction’s needs.
“We’ve been at it, like I said, 30 years, and each country that we dealt with picks of the best parts of the model and they utilise that,” said Mr. Sagado.
“Ultimately, at the end of the day, the future is to have a cohesive program or persons can go from strength to strength,” said Mr. Hew.
He told Cayman 27 he envisions the SBDC as a one-stop-shop to cater to the needs of the small and micro-business community.
Today was the first day of a two-day workshop, and those in attendance Wednesday morning certainly came prepared for a robust discussion.
Among the big topics this morning, dispelling the perceptions out there that there are simply too many government fees for small business. One civil servant pointed out that for many businesses, Trade and Business Licenses cost less than a dollar a day.
Another perennial business issue was raised by chamber president Wil Pineau – what to do about the cost of labour.
Minister Hew expressed some disappointment that local banks weren’t represented at the workshop, despite having been invited. He called that a challenge government hopes to overcome in the future.