2009 has been a tough year for most and a time for reflection and cooperation. It brought new challenges to us all but hopefully the kinds that make us stronger and more resilient. The Chamber of Commerce is proud to represent a diverse segment of the business community operating in the Cayman Islands.
Each of these industry sectors has specific needs and concerns so it is essential for the Council and Staff to determine the main areas to focus resources and efforts. We are pleased to report that the Council and staff completed and adopted the Chamber’s first long term strategic plan in 2009 that began with a virtual focus group conducted independently in late 2008. Participants confirmed that the membership supports the leadership and staff as well as the programmes, training, marketing and networking events being offered. Participants have described the Chamber as “balanced” with respect to public advocacy but expressed the desire for the organisation to exert more influence in the public advocacy domain.
Based on this feedback and considering the limited financial and staffing resources and the local economic downturn, the Council and staff developed a long term strategic plan that focuses on five strategic initiatives over the next three to five years:
Examining the feasibility of establishing a permanent home for the Chamber of Commerce with improved parking, meeting, training, visitor and conference facilities;
- Developing a comprehensive marketing and communications plan;
- Increasing emphasis on positive, proactive relationship between the Chamber and Government;
- Expanding efforts to increase international trade and conducting trade missions;
- Increasing environmental and responsible development advocacy
Significant progress has been made in each of these strategic initiatives. A building committee has been established, which includes members of the Council and the membership. Various options are being examined to address the medium to long term needs for the organisation. The vision for the future would be to create a facility that would become the central hub for business activity in the Cayman Islands. We will keep the membership updated on the work of this important committee during 2010.
Developing a comprehensive marketing and communication plan began in earnest in early 2009. Preliminary design upgrades to the website and the introduction of THIS WEEK AT THE CHAMBER, a weekly e-news report to the membership, have been completed. The CHAMBER quarterly business review increases in popularity and improvements are now being made in content and design for our 2010 issues. The membership is encouraged to support the publication and submit information about new products, services, promotions and commentary pieces. We would be delighted to highlight your achievements and news.
The Chamber office has responded to hundreds of requests for information on investment, relocation, visitor, and employment by email, the website, phone, in person and at overseas conferences and events in 2009. Networking events are an important part of the communications strategy and so we added two additional networking programmes in 2009: Business Assistance seminars and Business Connect. Business Assistance seminars allow members to learn the latest news about products, services and information from businesses that host the free seminars. Partners for the seminars have included RBS Coutts, RBC, KPMG, Performance Path and the Health Services Authority. The seminars are a cost effective way for members to showcase their products and services to a smaller interest group than the popular Business After Hours events.
Business Connect is an exclusive invitation only networking event for business owners. It is an excellent opportunity to exchange information about the latest advances in their businesses in order to generate sales and business leads. The first event was held in July at the Grand Old House and attracted 60 persons. The next Business Connect is scheduled for 17 March.
The Professional Development and Training Centre is entering its 15th year and has offered 89 first-class training workshops and courses to assist members and the wider community to improve skills and productivity in 2009. The Centre added local facilitators Mrs. Loy Kellyman, Mr. Gregg Anderson and Ms. Glenda Davidowski and developed a new partnership with the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resources Professionals to conduct specialised training. Special thanks must go to Ms Krista Pell, Mr. Philip Jackson, Mrs. Yvette Myles and Ms Samantha Nehra from the CISHRP for their willingness to work with the Centre to deliver quality training for the membership.
The Council has increased its focus on developing a positive, proactive relationship with Government and policy makers and we are pleased to say that the Chamber was invited by the Government to participate in the Constitutional modernisation discussions in the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom. We were able to represent the views of our membership based on the results of a membership survey and past Chamber positions on constitutional matters dating back to the early 1990s. These talks led to the country’s first referendum and the introduction of a new constitution and governance structure.
The Chamber, in partnership with Radio Cayman and Cayman Free Press, successfully hosted a series of candidates’ forums in each district to allow all candidates an opportunity to respond to questions presented by the membership, business associations, the media and the general public. The forums were broadcasted live on Radio Cayman and reported extensively in the local media. The public could also listen to the forums after the fact with links from our Chamber website. There was an excellent turn out for the majority of meetings and many community members expressed satisfaction in being able to address the candidates in such a direct manner.
After the elections, the Chamber invited the newly elected government to attend an extraordinary Legislative Luncheon and shared the views and concerns of the membership. The Council also held meetings with the Government to recommend ways to reduce costs and debt and to increase revenue. Many of the recommendations proposed by the Chamber have been accepted and the Government has agreed to meet with the Chamber leadership quarterly.
A prominent issue that engaged our members this past year was maintaining public safety. After a bout of local robberies many of our members voiced their concerns about the best way to tackle crime against local businesses and the community in general. In response the Chamber Council engaged actively with the Royal Cayman Islands Police and the Governor to demonstrate support in their efforts to address crime in our community. The Chamber leadership participated in focus groups to identify the qualities required for the new commissioner and the key issues that would be faced upon arrival. The Council has now welcomed the new commissioner, Mr. David Baines, and invited him and his senior management team to address the membership during one of the scheduled luncheons.
Promoting the products and services of member business is always at the forefront of the Chamber’s activities. The Business Expo, Business After Hours and Discount Card programmes enable members to showcase their products and services to thousands of residents. Businesses participating in the Business Expo have reported exceptional sales and potential leads – another tangible benefit of membership.
Education and youth development still remains at the forefront of the Chamber’s efforts. Mentoring Cayman, Junior Achievement, Careers Expo, Careers Awareness visits and graduation awards attracted hundreds of students to learn about the various career and entrepreneurial opportunities that exist in the Cayman Islands. Special thanks must go to all mentors, businesses and volunteers who support these important youth initiatives.
The Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching was a very successful evening and recognised for the third year some of Cayman’s top educators, including Mrs. Marjorie Ebanks, who was the recipient of the Maples Lifetime Achievement in Education Award. Her commitment to education has been outstanding and she is deserving of this high recognition.
Overall 2009 was another successful year despite the challenges experienced due to the global economic downturn. Thanks must go to all our members, volunteers and partners that have contributed their time, talent and resources to support the work of the Chamber. The staff and CEO look forward to serving you in 2010.
For those who would like a copy of the Chamber of Commerce Annual Report or Financial Statement they are both available on the chamber website www.caymanchamber.ky