Bodden: Local business must benefit from economic upswing
Island Paving boss Barry Bodden took over the helm of the Chamber of Commerce, promising a quieter style, but equally forceful advocacy, to his predecessor, the outspoken Johann Moxam.
Describing himself as “quiet and easygoing,” Mr. Bodden said this would not prevent him from fighting forcefully for the cause of the Chamber.
“Please don’t mistake my quiet demeanor as a weakness, I come from a long line of outspoken and engaged Caymanians and I intend to fight for our cause, for our members and for our islands,” he told members at the Chamber’s Annual General Meeting on Wednesday.
Mr. Bodden said the Cayman Islands economy was “uniquely poised for growth after years of a down economy.” Pointing to progress on several large projects, including the port, airport and Kimpton hotel, he said there were encouraging signs that an economic recovery was imminent.
Highlighting public-private partnerships, like the mooted deal between golf resort developer Ironwood and government to build a highway extension, as the new paradigm for public infrastructure development, he said it was paramount that such deals were done in an open and transparent way that gave local businesses a chance to compete for work.
“While questions remain about how these larger projects will impact our infrastructure and shape the future of our society, our economy will no doubt experience growth and diversity through the realization of these ventures,” he said.
“We expect these developers to be mindful of the Caymanian community by putting an emphasis on hiring Caymanians and local companies. We ask our government to hold these developers accountable to the Caymanian people,” he said.
Despite signs of progress, particularly on the cruise port and airport, Mr. Bodden said the Chamber would keep the pressure on over these projects and other concerns, including the landfill site, the cost of doing business and escalating crime, which he said had affected the community for “too long.”
“I know I am not alone in being tired of the talk on most of these things. I doubt I am alone in wanting to see less talk and more action,” he added.
He said the Chamber would applaud government when it was warranted and work in cooperation with them where possible. But he insisted the council, under his leadership, was prepared to be vocal in its criticism when necessary.
“Our goal is to see some real action on the issues that matter most to our businesses, our organizations and the wider community. We have no more time to waste,” he added.
He said the Chamber was keen to see progress on public sector reform and a leaner government that did not compete with the private sector.
He added that progress on several government and private sector projects suggested the island’s fortunes could be on an upswing and insisted it was essential that local business benefitted.
“We have recently seen the opening of the Shetty hospital, the commencement of several For Cayman Investment Alliance projects, including the Kimpton Hotel, and the continued growth of Cayman Enterprise City.
“We have heard of plans and promises of other projects such as the Ironwood development, the George Town revitalization, the airport expansion, the port redevelopment, and the For Cayman Investment Alliance projects. Creating a more robust and business friendly environment is paramount to facilitating these projects and encouraging others,” he said.
Mr. Moxam, who sometimes clashed with government during his year-long stint as leader, said he hoped his time at the helm had helped increase the profile of the Chamber and ensure that its voice was heard on key issues.
In his final address as president, he appealed for the community to embrace a multicultural Cayman, where different nationalities had a role to play. He added that all Caymanians had a role to play in shaping the country’s future.
“It does not matter if you are a multigenerational Caymanian or a new Caymanian or, even to the chagrin of some of our friends in government, a driftwood Caymanian, your voice matters. It has to matter, this is our home,” he said.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Paul Pearson, of Davenport Development, was selected as president-elect, attorney Kyle Broadhurst was nominated as vice president, Colin Reid, of Bodden Holdings, as secretary and Wayne Cowan, of Strategic Risk Solutions, as treasurer. Christopher Kirkconnell, of Kirk Freeport, Bo Miller, of Wastewater Purification Systems, and Gary Rutty, of Burger King, were elected as councilors.