A new boutique hotel and luxury yachting marina are among a number of possible projects in the pipeline for Cayman Brac, according to Sister Islands MP Moses Kirkconnell.
Plans for a new medical clinic and for significant investment in green energy are also being discussed, Kirkconnell, who is also deputy premier and tourism minister, told the Cayman Compass.
He was speaking amid public backlash to plans for a new aviation business, Daggaro, to set up on the island.
Kirkconnell defended that project, saying it fit with a wider strategy to encourage private investment on the Brac.
He said it was just one of a number of proposals at various stages in the approval process as government seeks to encourage private enterprise on the island.
Though the aviation project has attracted controversy, Kirkconnell said it was subjected to the normal planning approvals process and had been supported by “seven generational Cayman Brackers” on the Development Control Board.
He said government had been working for some time to create new opportunities on the Brac, which relies heavily on the civil service for employment.
He added that the $10 million project to build a helicopter hangar, airplane parking area and taxiway, was the first significant private sector development approved on the island since the Alexander Hotel.
Kirkconnell accepted there were environmental concerns, including from the National Trust, but said government had to balance that with its aim to create a sustainable economy on the Sister Islands.
Opponents of the project have highlighted the impact on the natural environment and suggested it does not fit with government’s stated vision of the Brac as an eco-tourism destination.
Kirkconnell insisted that was still the goal for the island but said some development and business growth was needed for the island to have a sustainable economy.
He said the Brac had the best education system on the islands but was exporting its people to Grand Cayman.
“There is a certain balance we want to strike for sustainability. If the balance is not there, your young people have to leave the island to get jobs.”
Asked how Daggaro, a specialist aviation operator which requires highly skilled personnel, would change that, he acknowledged there was no one currently on the Brac that would be likely to take up a job flying Black Hawk helicopters or as a rescue swimmer pulling people out of distressed vessels.
But he insisted, “There are people that can be trained to be that pilot or that diver. Opportunity is the big thing.
“When we started the financial industry I don’t think there was a single certified public accountant on island.”
He added there would be work during the construction phase and ancillary work for engineers, airport staff and other service operators once the business is up and running.
Kirkconnell acknowledged that Daggaro had been on government’s radar since 2019. But he said it was normal for any business looking to make a significant investment in the islands to speak to decision makers in advance of making a concrete proposal.
And he said the company had been given no guarantees over the planning process, which is in the hands of the local development board.
Kirkconnell highlighted a number of projects that are currently at the discussion stage and characterised Daggaro as just one business proposal that fit into a wider strategy of trying to attract investment to the Brac.
Perhaps the most significant of those could be a proposal for a marina, boutique hotel, restaurant and retirement homes that has been presented to government.
The plan is in the early stages and precise details are not yet in the public domain.
More information on exactly what that project entails is likely to be available in the coming months if it progresses to the stage where the developer makes a coastal works application.
But Kirkconnell said it was the kind of project that government would be happy to see on the Brac if it comes through the legal planning process.
He also referenced preliminary discussions for investment in green energy transition on the Brac as well as the recently announced commitment of Aster MedCity to create a satellite clinic there as part of its $350 million medical tourism proposal for the Cayman Islands.
Kirkconnell acknowledged that some of these projects would likely attract backlash, but he said government’s aim had always been to attract private business to the Brac.
He said there had been significant improvements to the Brac’s infrastructure, including investment in the airport, road network and healthcare facilities, and that was helping create new opportunities for private business growth.
Kirkconnell conceded that part of the Brac’s appeal lies in its tranquility, compared to Grand Cayman. However, he insisted government was not abandoning this concept but was trying to find the right balance between environmental and economic sustainability.