Barbados’ latest major investment in hardware and home improvement required no special concessions from the Government.
During the official opening of Kooyman’s Megastore at Kendall Hill, Christ Church, Prime Minister Mia Mottley declared the massive store embodies the types of “clean, innovative and progressive” businesses, to which Barbados’ doors are open.
Despite requests for overwhelming tax concessions from some major businesses in the past, Chief Executive Officer of Kooyman International Holdings, Herbert van der Woude revealed he made no such requests of the Mottley administration.
But after almost 50 weeks of construction, the CEO declared the most frequently asked question was whether developers of the 165,000 square foot store were being coaxed by concessions from the Government.
On the contrary, he said, the company’s top brass “didn’t even think about it”. Instead, the CEO identified the country’s political stability, relatively high standard of living, and a heartfelt ‘Bajan’ welcome from the country’s Prime Minister among factors that attracted their US$14 million investment.
“She made us feel so welcome that we didn’t ask for any Government concessions. We didn’t even think about it. So for the record, we did not ask for and we did not get any concessions from the Government,” the CEO declared.
During her address on the night, Mottley again praised her Government’s success in restoring investor confidence and attracting “innovative businesses” like Kooyman.
“As if that was not enough, you heard from the CEO that their confidence was not buttressed by concessions of a particular type but that they understood that this market and this country would give them an opportunity to be innovative and we see the innovation in the location where we are standing, which will provide the first drive-thru for small contractors and large contractors such that you don’t have to get out of your vehicles,” said the PM.
During her 15-minute address, the PM noted that 118 of the company’s 120 employees are Barbadian, 13 of whom sit as part of a 16-member management team. She lauded Kooyman for engaging Barbadian businesses and workers.
“This was not a case where they wanted to bring in foreigners for the construction or consulting on the management. This was not a case where large numbers of work permits were being asked for, and these things matter because what we are doing is creating a further brand for Barbados that is not just limited to Barbadians,” Mottley said.
With the megastore officially open, the Prime Minister is now challenging Barbadian manufacturers, artisans and artists to get their items on the shelves of local and regional branches of the Kooyman chain.
“Everybody is only looking at wood, but we don’t have forests. But we have coral and we have clay and we have the ability for people to produce coral sconces with some of the finest coral rendering and coral sculptures that any part of the Caribbean you will find. We have people who do coral basins for dining tables. We have people who do coral basins for coffee tables. We have people who do clay pots and other things out of clay and let us remember that one-seventh of our land area in this country is clay, in the Scotland District.
“We also have artists that do things which are novel. I see artists selling cushion covers out of paintings that they have and they have reproduced the paintings on the cushion covers for the interior design work on our homes. Why should we be only spending money to import when the opportunities are there for Barbadian artisans and artists, contractors and construction people to be innovative themselves,” she said.