House: Small businesses to get more help
A government agency which supports business start-ups has been given greater powers.
The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation Amendment Act 2019 was passed by MPs in the House of Assembly on Friday.
It allows the BEDC to form subsidiary companies in partnership with entrepreneurs and businesses, and gives it power to enter into formal corporate arrangements to help people develop a new business.
It also allows the BEDC to purchase shares in, or incorporate, a local company, and be admitted as a member, or form a local limited liability company.
If involved in a company, the BEDC may be appointed a director or the chief executive.
Where it is involved in a local LLC, the BEDC may be appointed the manager.
David Burt, the Premier, who has ministerial responsibility for the BEDC, said that the corporation had been Bermuda’s “premier source” of advice for entrepreneurs and business owners.
Mr Burt added: “The corporation has a focal vision of helping to create an expanded pool of inspired entrepreneurs running successful business that fuel Bermuda’s economy.”
He said that local small and medium-sized businesses are the “lifeblood” of Bermuda’s economy.
Mr Burt added: “The Government of Bermuda intends, through this legislative amendment, to broaden its reach to foster local economic development activity.
“Without question, the government is serious abut encouraging a viable and reputable entrepreneurial environment, with the BEDC providing tangible support and advice.”
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin questioned how the government would buy shares of start-ups and what methodology would be used to divest later down the line.
The One Bermuda Alliance MP asked: “If we take $100 out of public funds to put into this company, when all is said and done are we going to get $100 back? Are we going to get $150 because the equity in the company has grown?”
Ms Gordon-Pamplin also asked what measures would be put in place to minimise losses in case a supported business failed.
Cole Simons, the shadow minister of Education and Economic Development, said that he would like to see a training programme in place for the appointment of directors.
He added: “It is a serious issue, and I think the entrepreneurs deserve the best support, the best guidance, and the best directorship that is available on this island.”
Christopher Famous said that the government through the BEDC would help Bermudians transform themselves from being employees to entrepreneurs.
The Progressive Labour Party backbencher added: “We need to teach our people how to start their own businesses.”
Mr Famous said that the island needed new businesses to be created by Bermudians in the next five years.
He added: “We are under threat.”
Mr Burt said that the amendment was a potential “game-changer”.
He added that he often spoke about problems related to the set-up of institutions that “are not nimble enough and flexible enough to deliver for the future”.
Mr Burt said the government was “looking to provide different ways to make sure that we can assist entrepreneurs and other persons in getting started and looking at new ways of doing things in 2019”.