Small business backs Premier’s plans
Court Street area businesses yesterday backed a plan by the Premier to introduce more co-operatives.
Preston Ephraim, owner of OM Juicery, said extra support for entrepreneurs from co-op financial institutions and co-op stores would be good for the entire business sector.
He said: “Definitely the reins have been tightened in more ways than one with regard to the banking industry.
“I think some avenues could definitely be opened up, whether co-ops or other avenues.”
Mr Ephraim, whose store is on Elliott Street, added that co-op stores sometimes offered customers products not available elsewhere and that they had been successful in other countries.
Mr Ephraim highlighted the Rainbow Co-Op grocery store in San Francisco, which boasted an impressive range of produce.
He said: “I think we could look to them as a benchmark and find out what has worked for them. That is a store I have always loved, and I have seen other co-ops go up in other places.”
But Mr Ephraim said: “For a co-op to work it takes people with one mind and one mission. There can’t be any ego.
“It has to be about what is the betterment for all. I think Bermuda is primed for it. It’s an open slate.”
Louis Nevers, of Court Street’s Samson Too Tailoring, said more access to capital would help entrepreneurs launch new businesses — or develop existing ones. He said: “It’s something that will allow them to push a little further and let the island grow a lot better. I think it’s the best thing.”
Another area business owner, who asked not to be named, said there were other ways the Government could support small stores. She said: “The biggest challenge I have seen as an entrepreneur is convincing locals to shop locally. Everyone these days orders online. They shop overseas and order online.
“If they were to lower duty for entrepreneurs it would encourage people to shop here and we could make things affordable.”
Another business owner said he had got some support from the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation, but that additional help for entrepreneurs would be welcome.
The business owner, who requested anonymity, added: “I’m not too familiar with the idea of co-ops, but if it means that businesses will have an easier time getting money to start up, I’m all for it.
“Everything in Bermuda is expensive, and that includes starting a business. We still have to buy everything to get going. Getting that jump start means a lot.”
The business owner added that a reduced cost of living would benefit the public — and leave them with more disposable income which could be used to support island businesses.
He said: “If you get that balance right, everything builds, but if businesses fail the spiral goes in the other direction. It’s tricky.”
Mr Burt said in his speech at a Progressive Labour Party delegates conference on Monday there was room for businesses to improve efficiency and reduce costs, but many had failed to do so.
He added: “We want to empower Bermudian entrepreneurs to start a business and provide competition for the established players, using technology and a more efficient model.
“Just one problem, right? You will need to go to a bank to get the money, and we know how, in the Bermuda of today, that story will end.”
Mr Burt said that the creation of co-operative banks, Bermudians could create their own financial institutions and profits would stay on the island.
Mr Burt told the party conference: “Instead of the $200 million of profit that Butterfield earned last year being exported from Bermuda, those profits can be translated into lower mortgage rates that can be used to reduce your monthly payments and increase your standard of living.”
But Leah Scott, the deputy Opposition leader, said Mr Burt’s proposals were “targeted solely to a particular group of people” and warned the actions could encourage capital to leave the island.
Ms Scott added: “Mr Burt’s plan, if it can even be called a plan, will encourage capital flight, send jobs abroad, keep wages low, deter foreign direct investment and cause massive unemployment.”
Ms Scott said: “Mr Burt needs to pursue fundamental, structural changes in his government’s approach to the economy, and his victimisation and retaliation ideology is not what is going inspire confidence in our investors and potential investors, our visitors, or our country.”
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