On Thursday, a few minutes’ drive from the Takutu Bridge, which links Guyana and Brazil at the town of Lethem, several officials gathered at an unfinished building.
It is earmarked to be a conference area that adjoins what will be a business incubator centre, a hub for gathering entrepreneurs who won’t have to worry about start-up office costs or training.
Outside, construction is in full swing with blocks, worksite sheds and labourers milling around.
A company using what appears to be Brazilian equipment was busy laying asphalt to the driveways.
With the closeness to Brazil, a country that is self-sufficient, on a larger scale, the possibilities are endless.
The estate, at the country’s borders, will be testing new grounds for Guyana, trying to woo investors.
In the conference area gathered were Business Minister, Dominic Gaskin; head of the Guyana Office For Investment (GO-Invest), Owen Verwey; President of the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Daniel Gajie and Region Nine’s chairman, Brian Allicock.
Also there were representatives from a number of Brazilian companies.
According to Sharon Alexander, the Business Ministry’s Department Head of Industrial Development, the 70-acre plot of land was identified in 2014 with development slated to be completed in three phases.
Already, over $1B has been spent with another $500M required to bring the industrial estate to where the Coalition Government envisions the project to be.
It is all state-of-the-art, looking at the similar initiatives overseas. That 70 acres has parking lots, fire hydrants, concrete power poles, water reservoirs to counter the dry season that Region 9 is accustomed to, over 3,000 meters of marked roads and 6,000 meters of drainage.
It is the intention to bring internet, power and water and unveil a showroom of products.
In the industrial site itself, the area is being zoned for light to heavy manufacturing.
There will be workshops and training, Alexander disclosed as a Brazilian translator told the visitors what to expect.
It was explained that the Coalition Government, after coming into office in 2015, had reviewed the project, making significant changes.
To be located there will be satellite offices of the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission, with buffer zones included in the plans.
Already, a water well has been built and this will be connected to the main distribution network of Lethem.
According to Verwey, the project is a pilot one that will jumpstart economic activities and create employment and opportunities.
GO-Invest will start releasing the prospectus and approving applications for the industrial site before mid-year.
It was pointed out that Brazil, which has trade agreements on several goods, has been a key supplier of poultry products.
According to Gajie, the project has been long in coming. In fact, it was in the making since the 2000s.
While commending the initiative, the businessman urged that there be more consultations with the locals. He said that key information on the site was requested but received shortly before Thursday’s media tour.
Issues like certification, packaging and labeling, as well as the fast-tracking of alternative power projects, like solar and hydro, will have to take priority, Gajie urged.
The official is also pushing for fiscal and other incentives for businesses that want to operate in the estate.
According to Allicock, the region’s chairman, the region is a leading one in the country. He noted that the idea behind business incubation is nothing new, dating back to the 1959 in the US.
It led to the creation of some 27,000 new businesses with over US$70B in annual income.
Allicock insisted that the region has potential with canning of fruits and juices.
He too challenged for the region to have more oversight into the project.
According to Minister Gaskin, very shortly the details on applications will become available with the availability of investors’ guidelines to be released.
Committing to work close with the region’s authorities, the minister disclosed that work is being fast-tracked to bring cheaper power to the area, a key mix to initiative.
He said that the first sets of application forms will be ready shortly with the incubation centre in a matter of weeks.
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