European Business Magazine meets RODERICK CHERRY(RC) – CEO OF INVEST SAINT LUCIA who give us the low down on the investment jewel that is St Lucia , the idyllic island in the Carribean.
You’ve just become the new CEO of Invest Saint Lucia (ISL). What was the first challenge that you’ve had to overcome as the new CEO?
RC-Thanks, Nick. Let me say first of all, how grateful ISL is for this opportunity that the European Business Magazine has presented to us to get our message out there in the European Market.If I’m being honest, I’d say my biggest challenge so far has been catching up on the wealth of information that is available on the Agency. The organisation has so much history having been founded close to fifty years ago. Although our mandate has changed from asset management to one focused primarily on investment promotion and facilitation, we have, and continue to play a very substantial role in the development of the country. As I mentioned in one of my first interviews as CEO, the work of Invest Saint Lucia is perhaps the country’s best kept secret and I’m eager to get these facts out in the public domain.
EBM-What are the most important qualities for your everyday work in this position?
RC–I am a team player with a very democratic style of management. I strongly believe that the best way to get the team dynamic flowing is to be all inclusive, all embracing, particularly when it comes to decision-making that will affect the overall goals and objectives of the Agency. The greater the participation of staff, the higher the job satisfaction, the more successes we record. In addition to that, I’ve always been one who thinks outside the box and who can adapt to any given situation if I believe it’s to the benefit of ISL and Saint Lucia in general.
The market changes often and we must be prepared to make the necessary adjustments to achieve our mandate. Those investments that we consider significant this year, may not be relevant to our development goals next year, and so we have to continue to be proactive as it relates to our targeted promotions. The traditional methods of marketing Saint Lucia’s investment potential have worked to a certain extent but may no longer be the best way to stand out to our targeted investors. Given my background in marketing and experience in the tourism industry, I am of the view that Invest Saint Lucia will benefit tremendously from the effective use of digital marketing as well.
EBM- In April, Invest Saint Lucia won the AIM Award for Best Investment for Latin America and the Caribbean. Experts shortlisted ISL after gathering information on the most interesting worldwide investment projects contracted or commissioned during last year. It’s an amazing award! In your opinion, what projects were the most interesting/important ones for ISL last year?
RC-Saint Lucia welcomed the opening of a number of new hotels and also saw some major reinvestments in the areas of Tourism, Manufacturing and Outsourcing. While these had the desired impact of job creation and keeping Saint Lucia top of mind in the external market, I believe that the excitement may have been generated by the multi-million-dollar projects, specifically those earmarked for the south of the island – an area that has the potential to be developed into the mecca of tourism and entertainment. We anticipate that most, if not all these projects will come to fruition in early 2019, particularly given the redesign and reconstruction of the Hewanorra International Airport, the staging of an inaugural international thoroughbred race and the launch of at least two major hotel projects. Saint Lucia has always been categorized as a world class tourism destination, having won numerous awards over the years. In the last four years, there’s been greater recognition about the quantum and quality of investments that we’ve been able to bring to our shores.
EBM-Development of your country is an important objective for you as the CEO of ISL. You’ve mentioned that it is your intention to play a major role in this aspiration. How are you pursuing this goal?
Well first and foremost I have a great team that is consistent at creating awareness and keeping the island top of mind in the market place by proactively promoting Saint Lucia as an ideal investment location. We will continue to facilitate existing and potential investors – local, regional and international – who we believe support the island’s development goals through overall wealth creation, social equity and environmental sustainability. ISL has always maintained a close working relationship with its affiliate agencies, especially those that play a role in investment facilitation. This approach will determine whether investments fail or succeed. Yes, I want to see Saint Lucia develop into one of the most sought-after investment locations; want to see it remain as one of the world’s top tourism destinations; want to see everyone who decides to call Saint Lucia home, enjoy a remarkable quality of life. Therefore, I will do my utmost during my tenure to work with the team to influence the way business is conducted and encourage policy changes that will create an efficient and effective business environment, so that the right combination of investments is established on Saint Lucia.
EBM-You’ve once said that “Invest Saint Lucia must be a world class promotion agency and business enabler”, emphasising that your main focus is strategic promotion of the organisation. In your opinion, what are the main challenges that the Agency faces while following this goal?
As I mentioned earlier, ISL believes that all Government Ministries and Agencies involved in facilitating investments must work in tandem to bolster our efforts. I am of the view that ISL’s policy advocacy efforts as well as our seat on the Ease of Doing Business Task Force are critical to influencing policy changes and legislative reforms, that are geared towards creating a more enabling environment for investors. I think this is a huge factor in improving our ease of doing business ranking, which is, in my opinion, perhaps the biggest challenge we have to overcome as an investment promotion agency.
EBM -One of Invest Saint Lucia’s strategies, besides promoting externally, is also actively promoting investment opportunities locally. So far, how is this strategy working out?
Very well actually. As a matter of fact, a quick look at our homepage banner will reveal a campaign to get Saint Lucians who have real estate projects, business proposals, project concepts or products available for investment, to provide ISL with this information to garner interest, which we anticipate will materialize into sustainable investments. In addition, we will soon be launching a business incubator project targeted solely at the local small, micro and medium level entrepreneurs who are looking for subsidized office space to operate their businesses. We have a number of local entrepreneurs who have a vested interest in the manufacturing sector. In fact, we’ve facilitated the sale of quite a number of factory shells to local entrepreneurs in the last ten years. ISL recently recognised the efforts of Johanan Dujon, creator of Algas Organics which is a company that converts Sargassam Seaweed into organic fertilizer. We’re also working with a local recycling and waste management company interested in purchasing one of our shells.
EBM-In your opinion, why should investors show interest and invest in Saint Lucia? What are the main attractions for this?
Quite apart from being an award-winning tourism destination, renowned for romance and adventure; eco-friendly sites and attractions including the world-famous Pitons, Saint Lucia is quickly becoming an emerging jurisdiction for regional and international Headquarter Operations. Our strategic location facilitates regional and international market access for goods and services and this has always been a key selling point for investors. Some of our other attributes as an investment location include the fact that we’ve always enjoyed a free and stable economic and political climate; we have a skilled and trainable workforce; reliable infrastructure and advanced technology; and allow for the free repatriation of profits.
Saint Lucia has had a strong history of attracting and protecting investments. In fact, over the last half century, this small, vulnerably economy has been able to attract and facilitate hundreds of investors – both local and foreign. ISL’s facilitation efforts have resulted in an injection of over USD $2 Billion in inward investment and generated an estimated 20,000 in sustainable jobs. Some of these businesses have added tremendous economic and social value to Saint Lucia and continue to contribute to the sustainable development of the island. Saint Lucia is not only a great place to visit or do business, it’s also a great place to live through the Citizenship by Investment Programme (CIP).
EBM- Can you say a few words about the future? What does it look like for ISL in 5, 10 years? What are the main goals for the nearest future that you — as the CEO — are most excited about?
Well Nick, having boasted of five decades of successes, I anticipate that ISL will continue on this trajectory to become one of the leading investment promotion agencies in the region. I’m motivated by the enthusiasm of the team and our common goals and when it comes to our future, I think our Vision Statement puts it succinctly: ‘ISL will be a purpose-driven, vision-focused IPA having enabled USD $1.5 billion in direct investment, resulting in sustainable jobs and economic linkages between and among the various sectors.’