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Hundreds expected to attend Somerset EEZ meeting

Close to 700 people are expected to attend the Somerset Economic Empowerment Zone’s first public presentation event next week in hopes of sparking a “regeneration” in the western parish.

In conjunction with Sandys Parish Council, the EEZ has invited the public to give their feedback and hear about business-generating ideas on February 16. The event is a multi-pronged approach, bringing together government organisations, parish clubs and private groups.

“It’s a real public dialogue,” said William Spriggs, the economic development officer of the Somerset EEZ. “Really feel the pulse of Somerset, listen to the parish’s residents and work towards designing the way forward.”

Premier Paula Cox will be in attendance as well as representatives from the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, Police, Kiwanis Club, Somerset Cricket Club, Rotary Club and Cambridge Beaches, the largest employer in the parish. Minister of Economy Patrice Minors will also attend.

The event was originally scheduled to be held at the Sandys Cricket Club but was moved to Sandys 360 Gym to accommodate the expected numbers.

According to Mr Spriggs, there are approximately 125-150 businesses in Somerset, including charities as well as “dozens” of part-time, home-based services. The EEZ’s business aim is to increase commercial activity in Somerset by connecting the three commercial centres in that area, including Mangrove Bay, Manchester Street and Warren Simmons Field area thereby enhancing the quality of life for residents.

Mr Spriggs, who has been involved with the BEDC for several years, including as the former general manager and consultant, said that the event will connect entrepreneurs with community partners to help capitalise on new business ventures.

The featured presentation of the event will be ten small business ideas that the EEZ has identified within the parish in a variety of areas, including, tourism, retail, transport, event planning, real estate, marketing and informational technology.

“It’s a different approach,” he said. “We have identified those opportunities that have been overlooked and passed over for one reason or the other. Some are seasonal and some involved partnering; we’re hoping it becomes a regular ID programme.”

He added that the event is part brainstorming session, “putting the right people in the room” in order to start the process.

“We want people to come and say: ‘this is really going somewhere and I want to help’,” he said. “When people can feel like a part of something that’s compelling and real, it helps brings out the best in them.”

According to Dawn Simmons, Sandys Parish Council chairperson, the parish has been facing social issues that are affecting commercial activity.

“Our social challenges, like gang violence with a loitering aspect, have been on the rise for the last six or seven years but it has really escalated recently,” she said, explaining that those challenges have affected business in the area.

But they both insist the event is not a “gripe session” but instead to create “strategies for going forward”.

“We’ve got a lot of ground to cover but we want to get information back on who is interested in the regeneration of Somerset in a holistic way,” said Mr Spriggs.

Sandys Parish Council, 12-appointed member group will also be looking to identify nine people who are interested in being a community liaison between the council and the public.

Students from the parish’s schools will also be on hand to help with parking and guest services.

“We want to have our young students involved with real world opportunities, how to plan for success and embrace the workplace,” said Mr Spriggs.

The event will be held at Sandys 360 Gym on Thursday, February 16 at 7pm with parking at West End Primary School Field & Somerset Cricket Club East Field.

To RSVP for the event, e-mail DeAndrea Easton at deaston[AT] or 296-4339.

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Published February 07, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated February 07, 2012 at 8:13 am)

Hundreds expected to attend Somerset EEZ meeting

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