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CEC: Campus ‘soon come’

| 29/08/2014 | 1 Comment

(CNS Business): The development of the Cayman Enterprise City campus will be underway before the end of 2014, the management team told CNS Business Wednesday. Despite the numerous false starts for the project to find the right location at the right price, Charlie Kirkconnell, the CEO of the special economic zone, said CEC is committed to developing the physical zone as well as marketing the virtual one. With over 120 tenants in leased buildings around George Town and an estimated 300 potential new tenants, Kirkconnell said the development of the campus is essential to the future success of the zone and the developers have every reason to press ahead not avoid the project.

Acknowledging that the owners and investors, who have changed since the CEC idea was first launched, have had some difficulties finding the right site, Kirkconnell said that CEC was now certain that it had found the right place and the sale was almost concluded. He explained that two previous attempts to acquire land had fallen through for a variety of reasons but a third site on the edge of George Town would be the future home of CEC and construction would start before the end of 2014.

“We are ready and committed to build and are not avoiding it at all but it has been difficult to identify and secure the right place and the right deal for CEC,” Kirkconnel told CNS Business. He pointed out that CEC is a development firm not a real estate agent and it is in the interest of investors to have their own building.

The zone has faced criticisms from some quarters because of what is perceived as its limited contribution to the local economy and government coffers. Currently, CEC is housing tenants at the HSBC building on the West Bay Road, BritCay House on Eastern Avenue and, more recently, the Dart Group’s former harbour-front building, the Flagship. Tenants in the zone are offered a great deal which cuts out the need for work permits, regardless of the numbers or skill levels of the foreign staff a company employs, and replaces permit fees with a flat $1,500 special economic zone fee.

There are currently 168 special permits held by the zone companies but Kirkconnell said that these new companies are also employing local people and will employ more as Caymanians develop the necessary skills required by the hi-tech firms which are locating here because of the zone.

He said that CEC is not poaching existing firms and the companies which his sales team has managed to attract are coming exactly because of the competitive package offered at CEC, otherwise they would be elsewhere. The team is actually marketing the Cayman Islands, he added, as these are firms that simply would not be considering locating here without the special economic zone and its concessions.

He said CEC was making a difference and in addition to the fees from the zone, the firms that establish in the zone also pay general company registration fees and their staff are spending in the local economy. Kirkconnell said that as the CEC tenant list grows, there is a growing contribution from CEC to government and the wider economy.

On top of that, the CEC boss said, as part of the package offered in the zone to the tenants the company uses numerous local service providers to help with the technology needs of their clients as well as the basics, from office furniture and carpets to data storage.

However, Kirkconnell acknowledged that it will be the development of the campus that will inject a wider boost into the economy and the main reason why the zone was created and the concessions granted.

According to the budget figures, the zone has brought in less than $100,000 for the government purse, despite the millions touted when the deal was first signed. Kirkconnell stated that he expected CEC would bring in more than anticipated in the 2014/15 budget cycle but said it was the development of the campus that would enable the zone to live up to the greater contribution.

With work expected to start on the first two buildings at the end of the year, the physical zone will be opening around the end of 2016. But he said this would not mean that the landlords who are supplying the CEC offices at present would be without tenants as the number of tenants coming into the zone will see a constant need for transitional accommodation.

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Category: Education & Training, Financial Services, ICT, Local Business, Media, Technology

Comments (1)

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  1. leonardo fishman says:

    Why not have Government declare Cayman Brac as the Special Economic zone and locate the CEC campus over there..This would be a big boost to the Brac economy as the island residents could become landlords renting to the workers and providing other services such as restaurants etc.

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