The interest of Guyanese businesses in the oil and gas sector is higher than anticipated, according to Director of the Centre for Local Business Development (CLBD) Patrick Henry, who says that of the 2,675 businesses registered with it over the past two years, 1,573 are local.
The CLBD was set up in July 2017 by ExxonMobil subsidiary Esso Exploration & Production Guyana Ltd and United States-based development company DAI Global, LLC
Speaking to Stabroek News last week at the Centre’s Office on South Road, Henry pointed out that the number significantly surpassed the Centre’s forecast of 500 registered businesses over the period of three years. He credited the high number to the high interest of local businesses in the blooming industry.
“Even if we have 400 or 500 businesses expressing direct interest in the industry, the others are interested in learning what’s happening and how to improve their businesses, which is allowing them to make smart investment decisions,” he said, while pointing out that based on his experience from working at different centres around the world, the interest of Guyanese businesses in the sector is much higher.
“I would say that the interest is high here and I think that the numbers that we have seen are greater than some of the other places we’ve worked and they are greater here because there is this focal point, a build-up and anticipation whereas in other places sometimes oil and gas kind of gets lost in the bigger economy,” he added.
Henry said the initial estimate was based on the work done elsewhere. “…And it’s so much greater here and because of the excitement and also businesses here have been very capable of winning work,” he further added.
Henry explained that some companies’ experience in the mining industry have assisted them in making the transition to the oil and gas sector since they would’ve had the needed finances and the trained technical workforce.
The Centre has seen about 700 walk-in visitors over the last two years and while their numbers have exceeded their prediction, the rate has slowed within the last year. He said that within the first 18 months it would’ve registered approximately 1,200 to 1,300 businesses, with the rest coming in after.
Because of the unexpected numbers, it has had to revise its predictions and is now aiming to have close to 3,000 total businesses registered by the end of the third year, with over 1,800 being local Guyanese businesses. However, he noted that the trends in the sector after first oil will also greatly affect how the Centre will perform.
“There are businesses winning work and [which] have entered the supply chain; businesses are more competitive broadly across the economy and a lot of them have come through to upgrade their skills and capacity and I think we’ve done a good job of staying focused,” Henry said when asked if the Centre has so far been able to achieve what it set out to do two years ago.
The CLBD was set up to assist local businesses to learn about opportunities in the oil and gas sector, strengthen their competitiveness, and prepare them to join the oil and gas supply chain.
Within the last year, it has spent more time and effort beyond its general area of work and focused on trade missions, including one with the Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Association (NOIA) where a group of 25 Canadian companies visited Guyana to explore potential partnerships with local companies.
As a result, the Centre facilitated a pitch course in order to ready the Guyanese companies to understand the unique value propositions and a speed dating system, where companies engage others within a short period of time.
“We ran that pitch course and over 90 Guyanese companies participated and prior to that about 55 companies came to the pitch training. We spent a day here doing the speed dating activity and the Guyanese companies got matched with three companies generally but they were allowed to stay all day to pitch their services,” he added.
The Centre also had a Suppliers Forum at the Marriott Hotel in December to allow the local companies to understand the procurement forecast of not only ExxonMobil but also the prime contractors. The first day of the forum facilitated sessions with the local companies that submitted expressions of interests in the oil and gas sector.
While the first day saw about 400 invited business representatives, the second day saw an increase to 1,000 and, according to Henry, the high attendance was so unexpected that they were worried whether so many persons could’ve been facilitated by the hotel.
Among the Centre’s focus over the last two years has been on ISO 9001 (Quality Management) mentoring. Initially, they started with a group of five companies and three have since gained certification. Henry credited their success to the companies’ own investment, interest and commitment to becoming certified and he called it a testament to their seriousness in being properly prepared for the industry. “We have six more companies in that process working towards compliance and five more negotiating and also a queue of companies behind them that want to do that. We thought the interest would be between five and ten, so it has exceeded expectations and it keeps going. Companies are truly engaging the sector and truly investing to make themselves able to win work, which is a big sea change in that companies aren’t expecting to get work just because they are here. They are making the investments,” Henry said, while adding that the Centre is hoping to ramp up the ISO training this year and get more businesses involved.
For this year, the Centre will continue to run its courses on ISO 9001, business pitching, offshore oil and gas, procurement for local businesses, health, safety and security, financial management, resource management, supply chain management and procurement.
The Centre will also be working on developing an application for the registration portal and facilitating an online course on offshore oil and gas, since persons outside of Georgetown have expressed interest.
While the Centre aims to become autonomous by the end of its third year, Henry pointed out discussions are still ongoing “to figure out the next steps toward autonomy and the design.”
The CLBD is located on the third floor of the IPED Building, 253-254 South Road, Georgetown.