Some time ago I wrote a column about shopping lite in St George’s, suggesting that retailers in Hamilton set up smaller versions of their shops in the town, perhaps even opening just at the weekend.

It generated quite a lot of positive feedback, although as yet nothing has happened.

But it got me thinking … I live in St David’s and every day, twice a day, I drive past swathes of land that is lying mostly derelict.

A recession tends to encourage entrepreneurship and I have seen some new businesses opening, both in Hamilton and in St George’s. The ones I have noticed seem to be related to selling health care, jewellery and coffee. Long may they live! However, could we go a step further? While the Economic Empowerment Zones are reported to be successful, is there another way we could both stimulate entrepreneurship, employment and growth?

In his Budget, Finance Minister Bob Richards spoke about entering into more PPPs — public-private partnerships — to kick-start capital projects.

I am not a fan of PPPs; while they get projects done, it actually costs the taxpayer a lot more in the long run as governments can borrow at lower interest rates than private companies.

Leaving that aside, could a PPP be used to encourage small businesses? How about building a small business incubator on that derelict land at St David’s? There is already a small business park there (Bermuda’s best-kept secret) so why not expand on that idea?

According to Wikipedia: “Business incubators are programmes designed to support the successful development of entrepreneurial companies... Successful completion of a business incubation programme increases the likelihood that a startup company will stay in business for the long term: older studies found 87% of incubator graduates stayed in business, in contrast to 44% of all firms.”

An incubator at St David’s could start small with 20 units of varying sizes, with shared conference facilities, shared switchboard, small café, parking, good IT and a ‘one stop shop’ offering entrepre­neurial support.

Initially, Government could help to subsidise rent — as well as guaranteeing rent for empty spaces for a set time so the developer knew he or she could cover costs. If it works, there may be an opportunity to develop special interest centres.

I did web searches before I wrote this and could find no mention of this kind of project in Bermuda. Neither have I seen any evidence of it.

The only thing I found was: “In support of the Government of Bermuda’s social agenda, the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) created a Small Business Construction Incubator (SBCI) for small construction contractors. The primary goal is to strengthen the leadership and business acumen of small construction-related businesses. Graduates of the programme can gain a stron­ger position and become more capable of successfully competing in the construction industry.”

What do you think? Email or tweet with him @jeremydeacon1

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