New Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce President David Kirkaldy promised in his incoming address that his actions in office would be influenced by his experience as a small business owner and familiarity with the specific challenges that entails.
During the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting held Wednesday, 30 November, members elected new officers, bid farewell to outgoing President James O’Neill, reviewed the past year and looked ahead to 2012.
“I’m a small business owner myself, and as such I’m uniquely aware of the increased costs of doing business, the levels of bureaucracy, and the challenges with procurement that we encounter on a day-to-day basis. Over the last several years, it’s also been coupled with the impact of declining revenues as a result of many things, including overall population decline on the Island,” Mr. Kirkaldy said. “The perception which many feel is the reality is that small businesses are overlooked in many of the discussions of long-term policy, and it is my intention to communicate the concerns of this sector and to develop sensible proposals that can provide some level of support and encouragement to the sustainable development of small businesses, which I strongly believe is a key economic driver of any economy.”
In his final address as president, Mr. O’Neill highlighted the Future of Cayman public-private partnership with Government.
“This economic development issue is critical to the future of success of the Cayman Islands. The results are being achieved, and the initiative has opened new dialogue between the private and public sectors. We are working together rather than individually to address the issues that confront us,” Mr. O’Neill said. “Today more than 100 volunteers are working on the five driver groups, and all are now meeting on a regular basis to achieve their objectives and actions.”
During the meeting at Chamber headquarters, members elected Johann Moxam of Merrill Lynch Bank & Trust Co. (Cayman) as Chamber vice president, and Len Jackson of PC Doctor as secretary. Wayne Cowan of Strategic Risk Solutions was re-elected as treasurer, a position he has held for about 12 years. New councillors are Alan Brady of Baraud International, Rory Mohammed of Lacovia Condominiums and Natalie Urquhart of the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands.
Members voted to amend the organisation’s articles of association to allow councillors – normally with two-year terms – to serve an additional year, with the intent of staggering the terms of the five councillors, rather than having them all up for election at once (a phenomenon rendered by the disruption of Hurricane Ivan in 2004). Accordingly, Barry Bodden of Island Paving and Shayne Howe of The Phoenix Group agreed to serve an extra year as councillors.
Chamber Chief Executive Officer Wil Pineau said the Chamber has 708 corporate members and posted a 93 per cent retention rate from the previous year, which he said is remarkable especially during tough economic times. The Chamber added 53 new members in the past year, and its total membership is about two-thirds small businesses.
In the Chamber’s annual report for 2011, highlights include membership surveys, policy statements, local forums and international travel. Chamber Magazine, published by Cayman Free Press, won a 2010 Gold Award in the 27th Annual Awards for Communications Excellence from the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.
In 2012, the Chamber will host its second Future of Cayman Forum, unveil training programmes aimed at small businesses, and launch its multi-employer health insurance plan, also targeting small businesses.
“Over the past three years our local economy has been impacted severely. While I don’t think any clear statistics are readily available, we do know that many local businesses have ceased operation over the past few years, and that a great number of small businesses struggle to keep their doors open. These businesses, sometimes referred to as small- to medium-size enterprises, or SME’s, are the lifeblood of our or any economy, and it’s the very essence of the Chamber’s existence. We must work together to support, promote and protect this sector,” Mr. Kirkaldy said. “The Cayman economy is uniquely poised for growth as plans proceed with Cayman Enterprise City, the Narayana Cayman medical university, the ForCayman Investment Alliance projects, the airport expansion and the George Town cruise port project. While desperately needed, questions remain about when any of these will see the proverbial shovels in the ground and how these large-scale businesses and other infrastructure projects will be woven into the fabric of our society. Most importantly from my platform, we wait for a better understanding of how small businesses will benefit from these projects.”