The Hewden Building

Hews forge ahead during tough times

The developer’s view

Development firm Exeter had contacted FedEx seven years ago, says General Manager Neil Rooney.

“We look to develop long term relationships with local companies to be able to advise them not only on maintenance programmes for their businesses but long term planning.”

In this context Exeter approached FedEx, because it was obvious that the business would see a need to move to larger premises at some stage, he says.

However, it took time to get the development project off the ground. “We had not realised how difficult the process was going to be, I must admit,” says Rooney.

To find the right piece of commercial property, anywhere from the industrial park to George Town, that was going to be large enough, provided the flexibility to enter from both sides of the building, had the necessary traffic connection as well as the visibility and neighbourhood desired by FedEx to fit the firm’s business image proved no easy task.

“Of all those variables the most difficult one was definitely finding that piece of land,” says Rooney. “There is almost no land left that is developable.”

In addition to the land, matching the right landlord to the right tenant was another issue. While FedEx expected a landlord they felt they could have a long term partnership with, the built-to-suit development comes also with its own peculiarities in terms of commitment from a landlord.

“This is an office space with enough room to pull twelve vans in from both ends of the building,” he explains. “It is a really user-specific build.”

Having been familiar with the Hew property for years, Rooney had occasionally spoken to Joey Hew about it. “The Hew family recognised the value of that land long ago and really waited for the right opportunity.”

Ultimately the project turned out to be the perfect fit. Exeter brought the two parties together and negotiated a five-year lease with FedEx with the option to extend for another five years.

The investment by the Hew family into the Hewden Building shows their faith in the market, says Rooney. While he admits that the project bucks the current market trend, he believes it is also a big vote of confidence from a multinational like FedEx that the Cayman economy is going to be strong for a long time.

“A company like FedEx has the financial ability to take the long view of things. They don’t see the bottom dropping out here,” he says, referring to the local economy. “If they were the least bit nervous about it, they would have stayed, taken a smaller space or hedged their bets in some way.”

Pat Bell, chief human resources manager with Water Authority-Cayman, writes about her experience as she worked together with Phil Jackson and Melissa Wolfe on the Leadership Cayman seminar for diversity.

The first task was to try to figure how to narrow down the topic of diversity in Cayman. Diversity is such a broad topic and can mean many different things to different people. After some discussion we also realised that we didn’t want to fall into the trap of thinking of diversity only in terms of nationality/ethnicity. With over 100 different nationalities represented in Cayman, it is easy to just think of diversity as the differences between nationalities and how they again differ from Caymanians. Of course, that is part of the discourse, but it isn’t the whole picture and should not necessarily dominate the discussion on diversity.

We decided to look at four main areas in the local context and how they coloured or impacted diversity in Cayman: education, workplace relationships, youth and human rights.

We began our seminar with a tour of three distinct areas of George Town – Scranton, Rock Hole and Webster’s Estates, which highlighted not only the physical diversity of such a small geographic area but also the diversity in terms of socio/cultural/economic differences of the various enclaves we passed through. A personal observation that has lingered with me is the amount of parking lots and commercial lots, some vacant, that have replaced former residential areas and vegetation in central George Town. This is perhaps symbolic of an integral part of our struggle as we come to terms with Cayman’s diversity issues; are we able to strike a balance between development and the needs of those who seem to be benefiting the least from it? There are many people who are not able to move away from the areas of parking lots and live in the prettier suburban areas.

We invited a number of guest speakers to talk on their interpretation of whether diversity has had a positive or negative impact on the Cayman Islands relating to their own areas of expertise.

We were grateful to have Mrs. Shirley Wahler, chief education officer; Mrs. Glenda Davidowski, learning and development specialist CIMA; Ms. Janette Goodman, human resources director, Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman; Ms. Marzeta Bodden, marketing executive; Pastor Felix Manzanares, director of youth ministries, Church of God Chapel; and Mr. James Bodden III, social commentator.

Lively discussion ensued and it was obvious to see that this was a subject generating great passion for many class members. Of education, Mrs. Wahler impressed upon us to think of diversity not only in terms the student body but also the difference in teaching methods, curricula, standards and assessment in education and cultural differences among staff. She said that striking the right balance between all of these factors is crucial in the proper education of our children. This line of thinking was carried through to workplace relationships, youth and human rights as each speaker talked of the importance of balance and a thoughtful perspective.

Overall, the seminar was an opportunity for participants to challenge their own presumptions about diversity in the Cayman Islands and their own definitions of diversity itself. We did not give one single definition but instead presented several examples of diversity to stimulate critical thinking. One thing we can be sure of is that change will always happen, new people will enter our lives and time does not stand still. Let us embrace our community with open hearts and minds and think intelligently about the experience of diversity and how we choose to move forward together into an optimistic future.