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Hundreds turn out for Somerset EEZ meeting

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The business community in Somerset is looking to “grab the bull by the horns” in order to create a viable tourist destination, revitalising the western parish.

More than 400 people attended Somerset Economic Empowerment Zone’s first public presentation event last week in hopes of sparking a regeneration in the area and shed the view of just being a “pass through” to Dockyard.

The featured presentation of the event offered various small business ideas entrepreneurs could pursue to take advantage of the beaches and commercial areas in the parish, including beach concession stands, walking and bike tours, shuttle services to and from Dockyard and a water taxi business .

Many of the attendees felt that the meeting was a move in the right direction.

“It was a good first step, I think they achieved what they set out to do,” said Donald Hassell, owner of Country Squire Restaurant. “The idea is right, they’re trying to offer opportunity to those in the Somerset area.”

Mr Hassell said since Dockyard was developed, his restaurant business has steadily declined but it needn’t be that way.

“Business is dead as a door nail,” he said. “The market is there, tourists come off the boats but they are wandering around Dockyard with no direction. The next logical step is to create things in Somerset.”

“But once you get them here, there has to be things to do,” added Mr Hassell, who has been located opposite Mangrove Bay for 24 years.

Cheryl Caesar, owner of Caesar’s Pharmacy who also attended the meeting, thought the idea of concession stands at Long Bay Beach was particularly good.

“That area is ripe for development,” she said. “It provides something for tourists to do they want to go to the beach when they come off the boat.”

According to Ms Caesar, her Pharmacy located on Manchester Street for the past 16 years, primarily serves the local market and her business has not been affected since the opening of Dockyard.

“The economy is challenging right now,” she said. “But if you want to do something, you need to take the bull by the horns. The meeting was good to get the balling rolling and now the next step is actually doing something.”

Mike Winfield, CEO of Cambridge Beaches Hotel, also offered his ideas for the area, including a turtle sanctuary and a premier reef snorkelling attraction.

Mr Winfield suggested that a line be drawn from a point at Cambridge Beaches over to Nine Beaches to create a turtle and marine life sanctuary within that area. Currently the marine traffic has disrupted the wild life in that area.

“I think it would be of great interest, people could come and swim with the turtles,” he said, adding that along Mangrove Bay to Long Bay Beach are reefs, teaming with sea life.

”We could create a protected snorkel park where people can come to Mangrove Bay and go out on a variety of snorkelling trips perhaps the likes of which aren’t available anywhere else in Bermuda.”

He also said Cambridge Beach has been advertising for a water taxi service for their guests as well as others to come to the resort.

“We’ve been advertising for several years and we’ve never had an applicant,” he said. “The opportunity is there but that for some reason people aren’t grabbing. Endless procrastination and talking, isn’t going to get us anywhere. We’ve done that extremely very well over the last decade.”

Many at the meeting were concerned with the young men who are known to hang around those areas.

Ms Caesar said meeting participants discussed creating action groups to approach the young men to get them involved in the community so “people don’t feel intimidated walking past that area.”

According Mr Hassell, providing these men with entrepreneurial opportunities is a way to “get them off the wall”.

“If you create some jobs, their activity will slow down,” he said. “These are entrepreneurial opportunities so it’s their show, they would have to run it by themselves, we just need to show them how to start.”

The EEZ will be holding meetings with the Somerset business community to talk about next steps and better representation in the West End Chamber of Commerce. According to Mr Hassell, however, the parish may strike off on their own.

“Somerset has to have its own Chamber or group, separate from Dockyard,” he said. “We’ve always been thought as an add-on to Dockyard, but we’re not.”

Keen interest: More than 400 people attended the first EEZ presentations in Somerset to hear about entrepreneurial ideas to help reinvigorate the area
Keen interest: More than 400 people attended the first EEZ presentations in Somerset to hear about entrepreneurial ideas to help reinvigorate the area
Keen interest: More than 400 people, including Premier and Finance Minister Paula Cox, attended the first EEZ presentations in Somerset to hear about entrepreneurial ideas to help reinvigorate the area

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Published February 20, 2012 at 7:00 am (Updated February 19, 2012 at 8:11 pm)

Hundreds turn out for Somerset EEZ meeting

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