Special economic zone now has 85 companies
Cayman Enterprise City, the knowledge-based special economic zone, is leasing the Flagship building in George Town.
With 85 companies signed up to enter the zone, up from 29 at the beginning of the year, CEC is outgrowing its existing office space across four buildings, including the HSBC Building, the Grand Pavilion, Breezy Castle and the Mirco Centre.
The move will give “Cayman Enterprise City a recognizable and prominent temporary home, while the campus is being built,” said Charlie Kirkconnell, chief executive officer of CEC.
The special economic zone is fast approaching the critical number of zone companies needed to trigger construction of the actual Cayman Enterprise City campus, he said.
“We are actively in the market for the real estate that will be the site of the special economic zone. And while nothing can be guaranteed, we are seeking to finalize a deal to acquire the property that will be the campus before the end of this year.”
In the meantime, the new CEC City Center will bring renewed economic stimulus to downtown George Town, which has been deserted by businesses during the past few years.
The 30,000 to 40,000 square foot Flagship building itself was only vacated earlier this month by Island Companies.
“We are happy to be part of the revitalization of George Town, even if it is only temporary,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
The move guarantees economic activity for George Town for a short number of years, but it may continue to serve as a conduit into the Cayman Enterprise City campus on a longer-term basis, he noted.
“It is almost a funnel into the zone. As clients are coming in, they are going into the temporary buildings until their space at the main campus is ready,” he said.
Beginning in October, CEC will occupy the upper floors of the building that is currently remodeled and refit. Two zone companies are designated as tenants.
“We have two clients that will be going in there as soon as the spaces have been fit out,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.
The CEC chief executive said the special economic zone had a successful year signing up new zone companies. “We anticipate closing the year in excess of 100 companies,” he said. “We would like that to be as high as 115 or 120.”
While this target is aggressive, Mr. Kirkconnell said he believes the trajectory of the project has changed. It takes CEC clients on average six to nine months to make a definitive decision on whether to become a zone company. Changes instituted in the marketing and sales process at the beginning of the year, therefore are only gradually taking effect now, he said.
Of the 85 companies that have signed a license agreement, about 60 have a trade certificate and are already operating in the zone. It takes most companies two to three months to become operational from signing the agreement.
Unlike shell companies, special economic zone companies must have a physical presence and at least one employee on island. In all, zone companies currently employ about 100 people.
As a result, Kirkconnell said, the special economic zone is already delivering the expected economic multiplier effect, with zone employees buying houses and cars, and spending money in shops and restaurants.
Moreover, the number of zone employees is expected to increase rapidly in the next two to three months. According to CEC, two recently signed up companies are significantly larger. “One of those companies is projecting to employ in the range of 30 to 40 people, which will change these numbers significantly,” Mr. Kirkconnell said.