Despite gloom and doom predictions, one of Barbados’ foremost construction and real estate developers has given a vote of confidence in the economy, stating he is seeing clear signs of a turnaround.
Tycoon Bjorn Bjerkhamn, whose business involvement includes the multimillion dollar Port Ferdinand Development on the island’s north coast, told Barbados TODAY that his companies have had more sales in the last three to five months than the past four years.
And he said several major projects are in the pipeline that would further boost the national economy.
“To me the world is waking up, economies are picking up and our economy is picking up,” said Bjerkhamn, in a rare interview.
“We have a couple other projects that I’m not really at liberty to mention but we have some big projects coming down the road that hopefully will also help stimulate the economy and we will do our best and that’s all we can do.”
The business magnate said investor interest was also on the rise as the countries worldwide recover from the economic slump.
“It’s probably been the longest and deepest recession that I have certainly been in and I have seen two or three recessions in my life but we seem to be gradually coming out. I’m not telling you that you’re going to flick a switch and turn it over overnight, but it’ll come,” he said confidently.
However, maintaining staff levels since 2008 when the crisis hit has been challenging, the 70-year-old magnate admits, particularly for his construction companies, which refused to bow to pressure by sending home workers en masse.
“We have been ploughing back in the money that we made in the good years. I’ve been preaching it to a lot of Barbadian businessmen that they should do that. We all made money in the good days, that’s the truth, we all made good money. If you put it in your back pocket and say well, ‘I’m going to wait for better days to spend it’, then you send people home because that’s that,” Bjerkhamn said.
“We continued spending our money, we continued building, we continued developing and now that the about-turn seems to be here with us, hopefully we’ll make back some of what we spent; but in the meantime we did our best to keep the employment levels up because, at the end of the day, you still got to feed the children, you still got to send them to school. That don’t stop just because the economy is bad.
“You still got to eat and the children still got to go to school.” As for his advice to young people who are interested in starting their own business, he said it’s simply a matter of working hard.
“I’m 70 years old. I work a 12 to 15 hour day every day. I won’t say I work because I enjoy it so much. I don’t look at it as work but I am up, active, and doing what I do. I start at five o’clock in the morning and I go until whatever time in the evening it takes me,” he explained.
“Having some vision and seeing opportunities where others don’t see them I think is a good thing. I think it’s important but at the end of the day, the main thing that we are talking about is hard work,” he said.