Caribbean ripe for business opportunities


MIAMI – Florida is a beautiful state. It is a great place to do business, as well, because of its close proximity to the Caribbean. I am a Georgia native so most of my orientation — academic and professional — has come as a result of the genteel training that I achieved by watching and doing while in Georgia.

I was the beneficiary of classes that were taught by Carl Rowan, Larry Earvin, Dennis Kimbro, Mack Jones, Harvey Brisbane and other great scholars of our time. The main tenets of their discussions always seem to go back to business and politics and the role they play in developing a business climate within a particular city or business district.

I recently went to hear Randall Robinson speak in Broward County at The African American Research Library and Cultural Center. He is the author of many deep-thinkers’ books, but the two that stand out most are The Debt and Quitting America, the one that I am reading now.

Robinson is the founder of the organization called TransAfrica that played a significant role in the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa. So, on a respect level of one to 10, Randall gets a 10 easily in my book. He is not only a great writer and respected businessman, he is also an awesome leader who has represented America and Africa well.

Robinson turned his back on America some years ago because of his belief that America has no interest in ever helping the poor and downtrodden have a better life. In his book, he cites many examples that will certainly make you think not once but twice. They will give you pause and have you wondering if there is room for you on the small Caribbean island of St. Kitts where he resides.

Robinson came to Broward as the keynote speaker for a community-based event. What I found most interesting and useful to folks who want to grow their businesses was his electric feelings about commerce in the Caribbean. Here is what I surmised not only from his talk but also from the few experiences that I have had with some of the governments.

In the Caribbean, people of color control their economies. You can go from Jamaica to the Bahamas to Bermuda to St. Kitts-Nevis to Barbados to Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana and you will find that people of color have the ability and position to make multi-million-dollar decisions. That is powerful, intriguing and inspiring because it means here is a chance to do business with folks who are open and receptive and do not have walls up because they are unfamiliar with you and your skin color.

Last year, I had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with the political leadership in Bermuda, a British colony. All of the heads of industry — ministers of trade, tourism, finance and the like — are black. We discussed their desire to become independent from British rule when the time is right. We openly talked about trade with their American neighbors and how, within that context, African Americans can play a significant role in the opportunities that will come about because of their requesting it from our government.

Most recently, as I understand it, the British have decided to allow the leadership of Bermuda to have government-related talks with the United States without the oversight of the British Parliament. That is big news for this small, very successful, country of 200,000 black folks.

All through the Caribbean, you will find that these small nations are becoming savvier in their approach to American economics. I feel very strongly that if you are not looking to the Caribbean to create new business opportunities you are missing the boat. We have some strong members of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce who are having unbridled success in these strong, mostly independent, Caribbean nations.

Robinson also talked about the rebirth of the American black and the ability of our businesses to thrive in Caribbean countries. I say that you should travel to as many of them as you can, get a flavor for the culture, the economics and the business and stretch out to see where your business acumen and intelligence will take you.

Robinson said during his speech that St. Kitts has captivated him so much that he has a hard time leaving home for any period of time. Florida is beautiful, too, but a successful Caribbean nation, a successful Caribbean business and Caribbean sunset are unrivaled.

Last note: On June 1, the chamber will host a half-day seminar with R. Donahue Peebles. He and two panels of professionals will be teaching and discussing what it takes to win in the real estate game for new and old investors. For more information, call our office at 305-751-8648.

Bill Diggs is the president/CEO of the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce. Send feedback or news for this column to [email protected].

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