A Belize Enterprise and Innovation Institute is scheduled to be built at the University of Belize’ Faculty of Management and Social Sciences in West Landivar, Belize City. In a collaboration between the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service (BELTRAIDE) and the University, the new facility designed to nurture entrepreneurship and innovation, is going to provide for a series of advising/meeting rooms, more trained staff, several small business incubators and a resource center. Chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees, G.A. Harrison Pilgrim, explains that the planned building is the fruition of a standing relationship between the two organizations that has provided value for both.
G.A. Harrison Pilgrim: What we witness and celebrate today is a ripening, a maturation if you will, of a relationship that commenced years ago between the University of Belize and the Belize Trade and Investment Development Service BELTRADE. There has been reciprocity in the values show by one organization to another over the years. Today we come together in a partnership which we both believe will deliver value to our customers, to the community, to our employees and to the stakeholders of both entities. Tis grand undertaking can be viewed as another home grown collaborative creation in which public and private business and academia have come together to improve Belize’s competitive landscape by fostering entrepreneurship and innovation.
As for the services to be provided at the Institute, CEO in the Ministry of Trade and Investment Michael Singh says his thinking about small business enterprise development was changed after seeing the Small Business Development Center model established in the U.S. and elsewhere in action. He says that no longer will big business dominate the market.
Micheal Singh: At some point in time when I started at BELTRADE, I realized that I needed to step back and start looking at our domestic economy and talk about how do we get our own entrepreneurs to grow to the point of where they can become the job creators as opposed to the job takers. Of course we’re use to a traditional private sector in Belize where large companies that are known, known names, the Bowen and Bowens, the Brodies, the Santiago Castillo’s and so forth were the ones that everybody looked at and the banks. Everybody looked at them for jobs. But nobody really looked at how do we create the new entrepreneurs that will come out and create these new jobs. So I started looking at it and through a lot of prodding by particularly Melonie and her team about SME’s SME’s, and I kept saying what is this SME thing. I don’t even know what it means. And finally I decided to sit down, and I think it was a trip we took down to Dominica Republic where we were introduced to the small business development center model. Which is a model that is being developed in the United States, and it’s being exported into Latin America through assistance from the department of commerce, the state department in the United States, the OAS and support through the University of Texas in San Antonio. The thing that caught me about that model was the partnership between private sector and academia that made it work. Throughout the United States, there are over 1000 of these centers that are all located on University campuses, and they are all set up to help to develop capacity of people that choose to not educate themselves for a job, but to educate themselves for a career as an entrepreneur.
One key feature of the building will be its “greenness” – not the color, but adherence to environmental principles regarding use of resources. Singh explains.
Micheal Singh: The whole design of the building is intended to become a green building, and probably one of the first green buildings in Belize City. We’re working with the Ministry of Energy Science and Technology who are assisting us with technical assistance on how to retrofit the building for things like solar panels, efficient systems, efficient air conditioning systems and so forth. Even the design itself, how it interacts with the environment. That’s one of the things I think we want to showcase and that has also helped us a lot with fundraising because clearly that kind of activity for government is very attractive for the funding agencies.
The building is expected to be completed in about eight months to a year and final engineering drawings are being completed.