The new venture Tech City Cayman Islands Ltd. has promised to create hundreds of Caymanian tech-related jobs in exchange for infrastructure investments, fast-tracked permitting and licensing processes, and other concessions from government, according to a contract signed by the two parties last August, but kept from the public until a partially redacted version was obtained by the Cayman Compass on Monday.
Tech City Cayman Islands, known as TechCayman, is an organisation similar to Cayman Enterprise City, in that they both aim to create a budding tech industry by offering clients government-provided concessions and other services. But while the legal benefits of Cayman Enterprise City are spelled out in legislation establishing that entity, the concessions offered to TechCayman are in a partially redacted contract made available in response to a Freedom of Information Law records request.
According to the contract, TechCayman has committed to create hundreds of jobs for Caymanians, establish a data centre and a training centre on the Brac, and relocate world-class engineers to the territory. The company – whose directors include Health City’s Gene Thompson and Harry Chandi and Silicon Valley entrepreneur Samir Mitra – will also work with schools providing internship opportunities for students interested in the tech industry.
Progress has already been made towards those commitments. According to Thompson, an established cloud-computing company will set up shop by the end of April, with more companies to follow in the coming months. Thompson said the names of the companies will be released once they are up and running here.
Within a few years, those companies will have more than 150 employees here just by themselves, said Thompson, who added that TechCayman is also already visiting schools to make students aware of the opportunities they will have with the organisation.
All told, TechCayman estimates in its contract that 38 Caymanian jobs will be created this year, and 600 Caymanians will be employed in the IT, administrative, and support staff areas of the tech industry by 2023.
However, TechCayman’s commitments and projections are contingent on a number of government promises and concessions – some of which are not public, as certain provisions of the agreement were redacted in the contract provided to the Compass.
For instance, TechCayman promises to establish a data centre in Cayman Brac “within 18 months of a commercial grade data pipe becoming operational” there. There is currently one sub-sea cable that connects to the Brac from Jamaica and Grand Cayman, but Thompson said the TechCayman data centre would need an extra cable for redundancy.
Additionally, there are pre-conditions for TechCayman to secure the relocations of the engineers of a “major IT company” – the name of the company is apparently redacted, and Thompson declined to provide the name because the engineers have not yet been relocated.
Those pre-conditions include the installation of a third sub-sea internet cable, which TechCayman says is necessary to provide reliable high-bandwidth internet access for the tech industry.
Other pre-conditions include government establishing a one-stop shop within the Ministry of Commerce that will fast-track licensing and permitting processes for TechCayman-sponsored businesses.
Government has also committed to making sure the territory has a “robust and modern framework for intellectual property rights.” Legislators have updated the territory’s IP laws in recent years, but many of the amendments are not yet in force, according to the agreement.
Thompson noted that the government has been “working feverishly” to make sure the updated IP framework is brought into force within the next several months. Some of the delays have come from the United Kingdom, which enforces British IP laws via treaties with other countries, he explained.
Along with the actions government has committed to perform, there are also concessions granted to TechCayman. The concessions include removing any requirement for work permits for visitors coming here for less than 15 days to do business with TechCayman, as well as the removal of visa requirements for Indian nationals with U.S. or U.K. visas who travel through either of those countries on their way to Cayman.
Other commitments from government are redacted and blacked-out in the document that was provided to the Compass. The timeline for when government intends to fulfil its obligations is also redacted, as a list of government’s incentives that will be provided to TechCayman businesses.
Obtaining the partially redacted agreement between TechCayman and government has been a process that began when officials declined to make the contract public when asked at an August press conference announcing the initiative.
Thompson said at the press conference that he was against making the agreement public.
“The reality is that the agreement is governed by a confidentiality agreement,” he said at the time. “We’ll talk with government and see what their position is on it. Our position is that it’s best not to do it, to be blunt.”
After the Compass made a formal records request, a heavily redacted agreement was released in October, but that version did not include any of government’s concessions or commitments to TechCayman, nor did it include TechCayman’s commitments to the territory.
The Ministry of Commerce, Planning and Infrastructure declined to make the unredacted agreement public, and the Compass appealed the ministry’s decision to the Office of the Ombudsman. In response to the appeal, on Monday the ministry released the latest agreement, which contains fewer redactions but still has material information that is not public.
“I’ve given them all I plan to give them right now,” Thompson said of the latest, partially redacted version of the agreement. The TechCayman director said some of the provisions that were redacted could be misconstrued by the public.
Editor’s Note: Ogier partner James Bergstrom, an attorney advising TechCayman, is owner of the Cayman Compass.