The STAR Businessweek

The Star (St. Lucia) - Business Week - - NEWS - BY CHRIS­TIAN WAYNE – ED­I­TOR AT LARGE

Hello dear read­ers, I’m writ­ing this week’s ed­i­to­rial from the heart of Detroit, Michi­gan—af­fec­tion­ately known to many Amer­i­cans as Mo­tor City and the birth­place of glob­ally rec­og­nized, cul­tural icons like Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Won­der and Eminem, and home to ti­tans of Amer­i­can in­dus­try like Gen­eral Mo­tors and Ford. As The STAR Businessweek read­ers may know, TeleCarib Labs, a lo­cal ecosys­tem devel­op­ment or­gan­i­sa­tion, of which I am the Co-Founder & Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor, is de­sign­ing ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram­ming for Saint Lu­cia aimed at sup­port­ing our lo­cal en­trepreneurs who are fo­cused on mak­ing their com­mu­ni­ties bet­ter places to live, learn and work. While it may not be ap­par­ent at first blush, the city of Detroit and the is­land of Saint Lu­cia share com­mon threads in their jour­neys to­wards (re)devel­op­ment, eco­nomic (re)vi­tal­iza­tion, and di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion. In 2013 the city of Detroit filed for Chap­ter 9 bank­ruptcy, the largest mu­nic­i­pal bank­ruptcy in Amer­i­can his­tory, sig­nalling a cra­ter­ing of the city’s tra­di­tional eco­nomic base of au­to­mo­tive man­u­fac­tur­ing and ush­er­ing in sky­rock­et­ing un­em­ploy­ment, a se­vere flight of em­ploy­ers and skilled work­ers, re­sult­ing in tens of thou­sands of aban­doned build­ings, va­cant lots and gen­eral mu­nic­i­pal di­lap­i­da­tion lit­tered through­out the city. It’s an eerily sim­i­lar story of the crash of Saint Lu­cia’s banana in­dus­try, a tes­ta­ment to the risks of mono-economies like our tourism-de­pen­dent one. Though there’s still sig­nif­i­cant work to be done, the city and its com­mu­nity have been ral­ly­ing over the past few years to reinvigorate the area and shift the narrative—il­lus­trat­ing to the world that Detroit is back! While the progress so far has been hum­ble at best, pock­ets

of suc­cess have been achieved. How? Through a broad method­ol­ogy known as ecosys­tem devel­op­ment. We’ve dis­cussed this method­ol­ogy pre­vi­ously in The STAR Businessweek but, in brief, ecosys­tem devel­op­ment re­lies on a tool­kit of strate­gies and tac­tics aimed at lever­ag­ing a par­tic­u­lar geo­graphic area’s ex­ist­ing re­sources to stim­u­late (or jump­start) sus­tain­able eco­nomic growth. One important cat­e­gory of stake­hold­ers in this method­ol­ogy is known as

ecosys­tem builders—or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing specif­i­cally to ag­gre­gate var­i­ous eco­nomic ac­tors into mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ships in the hopes of spurring growth among them. For ex­am­ple, I’m cur­rently work­ing out of large co-work­ing space in down­town Detroit, called TechTown. The or­gan­i­sa­tion de­scribes it­self as Detroit’s en­trepreneur­ship hub. Housed in a former aban­doned five­storey of­fice build­ing, the non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion acts as meet­ing and of­fice space for the city’s hus­tlers—of var­i­ous ages, eth­nic­i­ties and in­dus­tries—while also act­ing as a plat­form to nour­ish those hus­tlers with re­sources of var­i­ous kinds, all de­signed to fa­cil­i­tate their growth and sus­tain­abil­ity. TechTown’s im­pact so far has been ad­mirable. While a small, re­fur­bished of­fice build­ing in a large in­dus­trial city like Detroit may not be much to crow about, be­tween 2007 and 2016 TechTown has served more than 1,800 com­pa­nies. Those 1,800 com­pa­nies have gone on to cre­ate nearly 1,300 ad­di­tional jobs in the city and raise more than US$120 mil­lion in start-up cap­i­tal. And TechTown is only one of many other stake­hold­ers in Detroit’s wider ecosys­tem. Imag­ine if Saint Lu­cia’s busi­ness com­mu­nity and pub­lic sec­tor were mo­ti­vated enough to sup­port a sim­i­lar, lo­cal­ized ini­tia­tive. Food for thought: while I’m def­i­nitely a pro­po­nent of Saint Lu­cia be­com­ing more glob­al­ized and host­ing for­eign com­pa­nies, the eco­nomic calculus of es­sen­tially ‘pay­ing for jobs’ through fis­cal in­cen­tives and tax hol­i­days is likely far more costly to tax­pay­ers when com­pared to sup­port­ing a fledg­ling lo­cal en­trepreneur through men­tor­ship, the pro­vi­sion of sub­si­dized workspace and low-cost fi­nanc­ing. If this sounds like some­thing that in­ter­ests you, reach out to us at info@telecarib.com with your thoughts.

Be sure to check out our cover story this week on CARI­COM’s ini­tia­tive known as the Sin­gle ICT Space, start­ing on page 1! It’s Noth­ing Per­sonal. It’s Busi­ness.

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