Airport bid ruled out small business, says CISBA : Cayman News Service

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Cayman Islands Small Business Association, Cayman News Service

ORIA departure lounge, artist’s rendition

(CNS): The president of the Cayman Islands Small Business Association (CISBA) says the arduous and costly process to bid on concessions at the renovated Owen Roberts International Airport excluded small businesses before they even tried. Dawn McLean-Brady told CNS that the process required reams of paperwork to be completed and professional assistance to do it, all of which could cost thousand of dollars, meaning most small businesses simply could not compete. As a result, the airport has not made any provision for smaller ‘mom and pop’ local businesses that could have added a Cayman flavour.

Pleased that at least Island Taste will be offering food, she said she was disappointed that an effort was not made to reserve perhaps just two of the units that could be shared by local crafters or small business owners to offer something more unique to shoppers. But the requirements for the tender, including architectural designs and the fit-out of the stores, even before the costly rents are considered, made it impossible for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to be involved.

McLean-Brady said she was very disappointed that government could not have found a way to help smaller enterprises gain access, given that the current administration campaigned on helping small business and reducing red tape.

“I really do not believe anyone gave any thought to how small businesses could have been involved in this,” she said.

The bid winners at the airport were revealed last week, and the food and retail concessions went to well-known franchises Wendy’s and Subway, as well as Island Taste and the Brew Hut. There are no crafters or artisans in the retail winners, with regular duty-free retailers Kirk Freeport, Island Jewellers, Bodden Freeport, Tortuga Rum, Jacques Scott, Last Chance Island Souvenirs and Churchill Cigars securing the shops, most of which already had the concessions before the renovation and several who will have more than one unit.

Brady said that given the disadvantage that smaller retailers have when it comes to competitive bidding, government needed to step in and help.

“We would have liked more discussion and we were hoping the government would have seen our concern, and the end result is that there are no small businesses at the new airport and an opportunity to promote home-grown enterprise was missed.”

The Cayman Islands Airport Association has defended the bidding process, which officials there have described as “fair and transparent”, though the tenders were embroiled in controversy from the beginning, with the airport missing its own deadlines on the process.

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