The STAR Businessweek
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
Stay connected with us at:
Social: www.facebook.com/stluciastar Email: email@example.com