South Florida businessmen ‘look-see’ could open doors to new opportunities

How to convert last month’s visit to Guyana by a delegation of South Florida businessmen under the auspices of the Guyanese-American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) to trade and investment is an assignment that is likely to preoccupy delegation leader Wesley Kirton for some time yet.

Wesley Kirton
Wesley Kirton

Kirton says he believes that business links could be amongst the most productive ways through which Caribbean people in the diaspora can best contribute to the growth and development of their respective home countries. In the case of Guyana he believes that the prospects are considerable. The visit here by the South Florida business delegation in May was planned to coincide with the staging of Guyana’s 50th Independence Anniversary event and though Kirton says that many of the engagements were of a preliminary nature he points to some developments that may amount to important breakthroughs.

One is the decision by Guyanese-born businesswoman Joy Agness not only to pursue a multi-million-dollar hotel investment at Linden but also to stage a major forum for event planners in Georgetown in October. Kirton hopes too that the longer-term prospects of a market in Florida for 200,000 pounds of pork weekly might galvanize a sluggish pig industry into action and, moreover, might cause both the government and the private sector to take a greater interest in the safety and health considerations associated with importing food products into the USA.

Arising out of the visit here too, there are prospects, Kirton says, for probing the various bilateral agreements – partial scope and otherwise – which Guyana has signed with other countries over the years to determine the extent to which they provide possibilities for investments in Guyana by South Florida businessmen in areas such as light manufacturing, agriculture, agro-processing, services and the creation of electronic and related assembly plants.

Wesley Kirton of the Guyanese-American Chamber of Commerce and Florida-based Guyanese businesswoman Joy Agness meeting with a Ministry of Tourism official in Georgetown
Wesley Kirton of the Guyanese-American Chamber of Commerce and Florida-based Guyanese businesswoman Joy Agness meeting with a Ministry of Tourism official in Georgetown

None of this, of course, is new, though Kirton says he believes that one of the primary obstacles to progress in the past has been that Guyana has not had “a well-coordinated investment and trade promotion programme.” The challenges, he says, are multi-faceted and range from a seriously underdeveloped marketing programme aimed at selling Guyana and what it has to offer to the rest of the world to product quality and presentation. Accordingly, he is encouraged by the seeming new focus of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-Invest).

Kirton, who serves as Chairman of the Private Sector Council at the Institute of Caribbean Studies in Washington DC, also spoke about “creative initiatives” which the local private sector could take to maximize its “product presence” in North America. These include undertaking joint venture bulk production and shipping to free zones in Florida where product can be packaged and re-exported to other markets from the United States.

There are too, Kirton says, prospects for enhanced

support and patronage for local creative industries in the United States though he stresses that product quality and effective business links between local producers and potential buyers in the United States. He says there is, sometimes, a tendency for vendors to mistake trade shows for flea markets, adding that it is a question of properly briefing participants in such shows as what their approach and their expectations should be.

Kirton told Stabroek Business that the visit facilitated meetings with officials from the Ministry of Business and the Private Sector Commission where government officials took the opportunity to outline their initiative to attract foreign investment. His concern, he says, is that what were, in fact, constructive encounters do not fall flat.

One of the real values of the visit, Kirton told Stabroek Business was the opportunity it afforded for members of the visiting South Florida business delegation to benefit from sector meetings in Guyana organized on the basis of their respective business interests. He pointed out too that the visit had been timed to coincide with GuyExpo 2016 in May which allowed the visitors to secure a first-hand look at the various industries and their products and allow Guyanese producers to introduce their products to the visitors.

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