FRIDAY, FEB. 3: EEZy Does It! is a monthly column presented by the BEDC’s Economic Empowerment Zones Agency (EEZA). Every month, read about entrepreneurship and business opportunities, obtain business management tips, and find out what’s going on in the EEZ business sector.
Welcome to the first edition of EEZy Does It!
It is fitting to begin with this first article discussing exactly what an Economic Empowerment Zone (EEZ) is and how the Economic Empowerment Zones Agency (EEZA) is making a difference in the various zones.
Although it has been a few years since the EEZ concept was first floated, many people still don’t know what it is and how it can make a difference to those businesses and neighbourhoods that need it.
Others wonder what has actually changed since the empowerment zone legislation was first established in 2007.
This article will define an EEZ, advise what has been established to date and help to explain the purpose of establishing EEZs in Bermuda.
Simply, an EEZ is a designated geographical area where special programmes are implemented in order to relieve hardship or economic disadvantage or to assist disadvantaged persons to achieve equal opportunity.
An EEZ is achieved through developing and implementing a system of policies to close the gaps of inequity that exist in certain designated geographical areas in comparison to other areas in Bermuda.
The work that takes place in an EEZ is focused on striking a balance between the economic environment (economic equality); the social environment (access to services); the physical environment (high quality design); and the spiritual environment (good quality of life).
The Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) was tasked with partnering with others in order to establish and regenerate EEZs across Bermuda.
From working with key stakeholders to address local community issues; to providing economic tools to help local businesses thrive; to engaging external partners to invest in these zones; the EEZA helps facilitate the change that zone businesses, property owners, and residents want to see in their respective zone.
Currently there are three zones: North East Hamilton, Somerset, and St George’s.
Business advice and support is the core of the work that is performed in each of the EEZs.
Because of the various socio-economic issues found in concentration in the three zones, BEDC has developed various incentives and policy tools aimed at assisting businesses to grow and become more sustainable.
These currently consist of (a) BEDC Loan Guarantee; (b) EEZ Small Business Grants of Technical Assistance and Advice; (c) EEZ Small Business Loans of Working Capital; (d) EEZ Payroll Tax Concession; (e) EEZ Custom Duty Deferment; and (f) Preferential Rates and Terms from HSBC and Butterfield Bank.
The EEZ initiative was broadened by the BEDC physically locating a branch office within the heart of the North East Hamilton EEZ.
This helped to expand the outreach with businesses and residents.
It is vitally important to be immersed in the day-to-day activities of each zone in order to create policies that will benefit area stakeholders.
As such, branch offices are in the process of being established in the Somerset and St George’s zones.
The EEZ initiative has engendered tremendous goodwill and positive movements to date.
The EEZA has achieved a great deal through collaboration with partners and will continue to make headway to ensure that each zone has a sturdy foundation on which to build.
In subsequent articles the respective Economic Development Officers for North East Hamilton (Roxanne Christopher); Somerset (William Spriggs); and St George’s (Corey Butterfield) will share details on the vision for their respective zones and their particular work in each area.
To contact them call the EEZA at 296-4339 or e-mail email@example.com.
Erica Smith is Director of the Economic Empowerment Zones Agency, responsible for ensuring the development and implementation of Economic Empowerment Zones throughout Bermuda.