The success of small to medium sized businesses throughout the country are incumbent to the success and continued growth of the nation’s overall economy, Deputy Prime Minister K. Peter Turnquest, Minister of Finance told the audience at the 20th Annual Bahamas Business Outlook 2018.
The event was held at the Grand Lucayan Resort on Thursday, February 22.
“This government has dedicated itself to the promotion of small and medium sized businesses, by providing them with the assistance needed to survive and thrive. We believe that small businesses and ‘Mom and Pop Shops’ are the heart of our communities, and their successes are major indicators to the health of our economy at any given time.
“In accordance with that commitment, we are steadily embracing the concept of Small Business Development Centres (SBDC). SBDC are the central comprehensive technical and managerial support, to manage micro, small and medium enterprises,” noted Turnquest.
These centres originated in the United States, where they make up a collective network called the Small Business Development Centre Network and established Inter-Connected Matrix Centres dedicated to the overall development of the private sector, he explained.
“The Organization of American States identified the success of this model and has since sought to establish SBDC’s around the Caribbean community. SBDC’s are already successfully operating in some of our neighbouring countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis. This government is eager to adopt this SBDC model in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas and incorporate it into our improving economy.”
He added that the success of such SBDC’s will indeed be a collaborative effort, between the government and private sectors.
“We anticipate that the University of The Bahamas (UB), the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce (GBCC), will be integral to the initial set up as well as the continued growth of the SBDC, in Grand Bahama.
“Ideally, as with operational SBDC’s in the United States, our local university will house the development centers and serve as the main avenue for marketing research. This way students will play a role, thereby giving real world practice, applying real world businesses on how to maximize functionality, and cater to market brand.
“This is a very significant program that is near and dear to my heart. As I have said to the organizing committee of this particular program. What I am looking for is for UB, to serve as a real resource, for the business community, in our islands; not in the traditional sense of just providing professional services or advice, but to doing research into costs.”
Exploring natural resources throughout the country and determining, based upon sound, scientific data, and academic research that is done in other parts of the world with similar atmospheres and similar resources, and the possibilities for developments within the country are also avenues, said the DPM, who is hopeful that UB will also delve into.
“Determining what can be manufactured from the natural resources that we have, so at the end of the day, we create an indigenous product that is not only used locally, but that can also be exported. The truth of the matter is, until we can export goods (although we are doing some, in services, but we need to do more), it is very difficult to build real wealth in the economy.
“We need that external dollar to add to our dollar. We need to create wealth for ourselves by looking around us and seeing what is available, as a natural resource, as a natural product and determine how we can transform that into either raw materials, first stage, second stage or final product. I believe that we can do that, because there are a number of natural resources and minerals that we have that we do not do anything with locally, but that we export.
“The idea is to get UB to help us work out a model and to work out the various aspects of the businesses so at the end of the day, we can hand off the business to some enterprising young Bahamian, who is interested in manufacturing or taking the products into the end stage.”
Additionally, he expanded upon the importance of Public Private Partnerships (PPP’s) in the success of SBDC’s
“PPP’s are another core focus in the success of the SBDC’s model. The idea is that the joint efforts and funding from the government in conjunction with key stakeholders will serve to almost guarantee long term success of small businesses.
“Perhaps the most unique and important factor of the success of the SBDC model is in focusing on one on one mentorships, to help to achieve our desired results and sustain economic impact, which opens doors for increased salaries and access to capital.
“The training and grant programs recently launched under the Office of the Prime Minister here on Grand Bahama, closely mirror this model and I believe it is safe to say that this largely contributes to the immediate success and anticipated longevity of the start-up and existing small businesses who participate.”
He congratulated Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister Senator J. Kwasi Thompson, for spearheading the Apiary Program that is now in existence.
“It is a very significant opportunity for young people to get into business for themselves, in a multi-million-dollar industry that never existed here. There are individuals that have small honey production around, for themselves and their families, and sometimes sell them in the markets. But now we are talking about expanding this 100-fold, creating a real industry that we can now model and produce honey, made in The Bahamas for export.
“It is a fantastic program and opportunity for the people in our country. I again congratulate Thompson for your creativity and innovation, in respect to that. Again, this is all coming out of the SBDC idea.
“The government now actively seeks to establish concrete SBDC’s in Grand Bahama and across the nation, to impact wider communities and to foster a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation throughout The Bahamas. Our encouragement of innovative business practices coincides with the development of Grand Bahama.
“We are doing some other innovative things with respect to technology. We are moving, deliberately, with respect to launching technology and how we can incorporate that in the digitalization of the services that government provides. We see tremendous advantages to us, if we are able to move in that direction, with respect to the ease of doing business, which is a significant focus of this government,” said Turnquest.
He concluded that many of the initiatives that the government is presently engaged in calls for active participation by citizens of The Bahamas. “They (initiatives) speak to the future of governance and how the citizen participates, it speaks to how we need the engagement of the private sector, to help us to take up some of the capacity that exists in this country. As the private sector takes up that capacity it reduces the burden on government, which allows us to be more flexible, doing other things and investing more in innovation, investing more in creating a more facilitative environment.
“I know that in Grand Bahama it is not easy, but there is one overriding message that I want to leave with you and that is, the future of Grand Bahama is bright. We do see real potential for growth this year.
“Certainly from the government’s perspective, we are committed. You will hear, as the prime minister (Dr. Hubert Minnis) indicated that over the next few weeks, about significant announcements, and the way that they are lined up at the moment – almost every week there will be some announcement of projects that are happening throughout this Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
“I ask for your support and continued engagement with the government, and your advice as we move forward. Certainly we know that we do not have all of the answers, we need your intellectual talent, to help us solve this puzzle. We certainly look for the support of our partners, in what we are trying to do, in terms of small businesses in particular; because as we empower them, we empower our communities. At the end of the day, we serve each other as we provide assistance, for each other,” stated the DPM.