Cayman Enterprise City (CEC) officials say that the special economic zone (SEZ) in Grand Cayman has attracted 60 new companies over the past year, that its impact to the Cayman Islands economy since its creation is nearly US$70 million and that there are now around 300 zone-based employees.
Almost five years after former premier McKeeva Bush announced plans for a deal with investors and potential developers to create a campus in Cayman for technology businesses, the current management team has now received planning permission for that long-awaited development.
Over the last few years foreign companies registering with CEC leased offices in various locations in and around George Town and were given favourable terms under the SEZ law for recruiting foreign workers and duty cuts on the importation of relevant equipment, as well as other incentives. It has often been a point of contention for the long-established financial firms here that their industry could not be ring-fenced in the same way.
But according to officials, the creation of CEC was to diversify the Cayman economy by attracting direct foreign investment and new technology-focused industries that had not previously set up here and the zone was designed to create new career opportunities for locals.
However, immigration statistics reveal that 263 of the 300 posts that CEC claims have been created are held by overseas workers, meaning that just 37 jobs have gone to locals.
Nevertheless, government has been extremely supportive of the project and has helped promote the zone overseas to foreign investors.
“As one of the largest financial service centres in the world, we are a community that is business focused and welcome a diversity of businesses to our shores,” Premier Alden McLaughlin said.
Charlie Kirkconnell, CEO Cayman Enterprise City
The government has now approved CEC’s Master Plan Zoning to create a mixed-use business-oriented campus on 70 acres, five minutes from central George Town in the South Sound area, and some of CEC’s existing clients will eventually move into the specially designed campus and out of the rented offices, which officials describe as interim zone buildings.
The campus will cover 850,000 square-feet of office, commercial and residential space. Land preparation, grading, and preliminary work on the site will begin early this year and the first two buildings are expected to be completed in 2018, with further construction ongoing, CEC said.
“With the advent of the zone, Cayman is now earning a reputation for producing a lot more than just great financial structures and rum cakes, said CEC CEO Charlie Kirkconnell. “We are now seeing incredible software products, digital media, apps and all kinds of intellectual property being created right here in the Cayman Islands. It’s amazing to see our vision come to fruition.”
Commerce Minister Wayne Panton said the current management team, led by Kirkconnell, had done an excellent job and had shown good progress in increasing the business it attracts to Cayman. “The great strides being made underscore our reasons for being positive and optimistic about the future of CEC and the Cayman Islands.”
Republished with permission of Cayman News Service