By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
The deputy prime minister yesterday said the Government's investment in Bahamian entrepreneurs is "the surest bet" it has made as it targets specific industries in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
K Peter Turnquest pledged that the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), known as the Access Accelerator, will allocate a significant portion of the $55m it has received from the Government towards value-added processing in the fisheries and agricultural sector, and Bahamian owned vacation rentals.
“In just one year, I have no doubt that the Access Accelerator has had the single greatest impact on advancing the development of micro and small businesses in The Bahamas than any institution before in such a short period," he added.
"Not only because of the direct investments made through government-sponsored grants, loans and equity financing, but more importantly because the Access Accelerator has strengthened the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem. It has created a structure to support a culture of entrepreneurial risk taking.
"Everyday Bahamians can now find training, business advisory and financing available and accessible, regardless of who they are, where they live or what their politics might be. This program transcends partisan politics and social class. Indeed, the apolitical nature of the Access Accelerator is no doubt largely responsible for some of its success.”
Mr Turnquest added: "At the time of the launch last year, the Government allocated $25m to the Access Accelerator for a five-year programme. That amount grew significantly with the involvement of the private sector stakeholders bringing their own capital resources, and joining the cause as partners. That is a testament to the public trust now invested in this important institution.
"The surest bet that we have made as a government is on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Bahamian people. We did this in times of stability, and continue to do so in times of uncertainty. Regardless of moment, betting on Bahamians is sure way to create jobs, build wealth, and develop a robust and resilient Bahamian economy.
“In the coming year the Access Accelerator intends to focus on funding and business development support in the following industries: Fisheries and farming, with particular attention on value-added processing; Bahamian-owned vacation home rentals and small-scale tourism projects; information and communications technology (ICT); alternative energy and energy efficiency; the Orange Economy or creative and cultural ventures; and manufacturing.”
Mr Turnquest hopes investments in these areas will “capture entrepreneurs operating in non-traditional sectors who often have difficulty accessing entrepreneurial support. This is most needed currently, for the task to recover from the ongoing crisis depends on the creativity, determination, and grit of the small business community.
"The entrepreneurs who come out of the Access Accelerator will no doubt help to diversify the economy as more persons get involved and explore non-traditional businesses," he added. "We recognise that for some of our constituents they may not be able to come up with the requirements for the traditional way for funding a business, and some of them don’t require much.
"They don’t really need credit; they just need a little start and a little boost, and so we have refined the programme such that we will now be able to grant small capital injections into these businesses to get them started with the basic requirements they may need in order to start their businesses."
He added: “For instance, when we look at the coconut vendors - the street vendors - that have been in the news of late, and the problems they have had particularly in this pandemic, we are in the process of designing a programme for them specifically so that they can acquire all of the equipment that they need to ensure sanitisation, to ensure regularisation and to ensure that they have the required health and environmental tools that they need in order to operate successfully and safely. "