FRIDAY, FEB. 24: Somerset residents came together to discuss business opportunities and challenges that community faces in a meeting last week.

On February 16, over 450 attendees, consisting of mostly Somerset residents and entrepreneurs, descended upon Sandys 360 for the highly anticipated Somerset Community Speaks event. 

The Somerset Economic Empowerment Zone (SEEZ) and the Sandys Parish Council hosted the event as a way to jump-start the Somerset transformation process as a result of the Economic Empowerment Zone (EEZ) designation. 

William Spriggs, economic development officer for the SEEZ, coordinated the event. 

The forum started with Mr. Spriggs and Dawn Simmons, chairperson of the Sandys Parish Council showcasing their respective organisations and team members as key supports for the initiative. 

Both Patrice Minors, Minister of Economy Trade and Industry, and Premier Paula Cox spoke to the audience.

Premier Cox said: “... the solutions to Somerset’s issues and regeneration can all be found here with its residents and businesses.”

Tourist ideas

Mr Spriggs showcased the first five of the 10 Somerset Business Ventures & Ideas, which included: (1) creating concessions at Long Bay and (2) Mangrove Bay Beaches; (3) upgrading Cambridge Road’s public wharf; (4) creating value-added tourist tour experiences; and (5) creating a Somerset-focused Visitor Information Centre. 

A panel discussion took place on these ideas with Craig Burt, Department of Parks ; Donald Hassell, CEO, Country Squire Restaurant; Ms. Jasmin Smith - Acting permanent secretary, Department of Tourism; Michael Winfield, President, Cambridge Beaches; Pandora Glasford, director, National Training Board; and Dr. Melvyn Bassett, director, Sandys 360. 

Mr. Hassell felt that Somerset tourist experiences needed to be created as tourists were currently being bussed straight through Somerset to Horseshoe Bay Beach or other destinations.  

Mr. Winfield suggested that a premier reef snorkelling attraction and turtle/marine life sanctuary could be created between Cambridge and 9 Beaches.

Ms. Glasford shared that the National Training Board was open to exploring the possibilities for young people to be empowered with necessary entry level work skills and employed within Somerset businesses whether it be through a formal apprenticeship programme or otherwise.

Retail therapy

Attendees had the opportunity to discuss the above referenced opportunities with panel representatives that included Chief Inspector Tracy Adam and Superintendent Mark Clarke, both from the Sandys Rotary and the Bermuda Police Service; Jason Hansford-Smith, programme manager, Department of Youth, Sport & Recreation; Beverly Simmons, owner, Cessi’s Boutique; Cheryl Martins, partner, Caesars Pharmacy; Leon O’Brien, partner, Thermax Bermuda; and Norbert Simmons, member, Loyal Irresistible Lodge.

Mr O’Brien stated that Hi-Group of Companies was looking to partner with an entrepreneur interested in setting up a Somerset Thermax business. 

Jason Hansford-Smith communicated that his department was looking to partner with Somerset entrepreneurs around the YES initiative at Springfield.

YES is focused on working with non-skilled young persons and matching them with veteran tradesmen to complete the porch renovation project. 

Ms Simmons shared that the Scott-Sims property at Manchester Street currently has retail and office vacancies and that she would be interested in speaking to any entrepreneurs looking to expand or set-up new businesses in Somerset.