Cayman Enterprise City is finally taking off. Starting the year with 29 firms, the knowledge-based special economic zone expects to accommodate more than 100 companies by year’s end, says CEO Charlie Kirkconnell. He speaks with the Journal about the reasons for the project’s growth and CEC’s target markets.
Charlie Kirkconnell, who took over as CEO of Cayman Enterprise City in February, says it took a while for the changes in the sales effort to take effect.
One of the reasons the numbers are climbing only now is the six- to nine-month period clients typically need from initial contact to signing up. The larger the clients, the longer the process takes, accounting for internal administrative steps.
“So with the long timeline to get clients through the door, you have to be patient. But what we have done is we have really focused on the business of CEC. None of what we are doing is going to happen overnight,” he says. “You have to put the right processes in place, and we have refocused our marketing efforts and our sales efforts with the idea that we are going to see the results of this in six to nine months as opposed to waiting around for the home run.”
At the same time, CEC has narrowed the focus of its sales team. While companies from Latin America, Dubai or China that match the industry classification criteria are welcome, the primary target market is North America.
“For us, Silicon Valley is absolutely the low-hanging fruit. It is our ideal target. Toronto as well, not just for the tech companies – there is a huge tech center there – but also for film.”
CEC is allowed to bring in film companies, media companies, new media, which includes animation for film and post-production, for which greater Toronto area is known. CEC toured Toronto in September and will be back in Silicon Valley this month.
While the strategic focus on the North American has been successful, CEC is also reaching out to other jurisdictions. The special economic zone maintains partnerships in other regions, such as London, where the company will participate in the joint Ministerial Council business event with the Cayman Islands delegation this month.
In addition, Cayman Enterprise City has adapted its online communication.
Because each client group has different key drivers that would make locating in a special economic zone an attractive proposition, CEC has updated its online presence by launching five new websites with targeted messaging more closely related to a spectrum of clients and their needs.
Now that the zone has started to gain some traction, word of mouth will also be a significant sales factor going forward. With more companies becoming operational and seeing the advantages of locating in the special economic zone, interest will grow, Kirkconnell says. Companies that operate in technology circles, in particular, are expected to spread the word and generate sales leads. “We expect that this knock-on effect will become one of our more effective sales tools.”
One of the requirements of the special economic zone is a physical presence. Each new CEC client setting up a company must start with a minimum of one employee.
Companies may not start with a full complement of staff from day one, but there must be people on the ground, Kirkconnell explains. This means that with just over 100 people working in the special economic zone, CEC is already delivering the desired economic multiplier effect, he says.
“They are here spending money in the economy. They are buying houses, they are buying cars, they are shopping in the stores, they are eating in the restaurants and that is happening already.”
The 100 zone employees are working for just over 60 companies that have operations under way. In total, 89 companies have signed license agreements and will obtain a trade certificate with a two- to three-month lag. CEC expects the numbers to increase rapidly, particularly since two large companies have recently made the decision to locate in the zone. One of the firms is projecting to employ 30 to 40 people.
“So within the next two to three months you should see a significant increase in that figure,” Kirkconnell says. With that the zone will help expand the size of the economy and bring foreign direct investment and business to the islands, he says.