E-IDCOT stands as a catalyst for growth and development in Tobago's productive sector

 

Presentation at the Business Outlook Conference

Finance Week 2011

Mt. Irvine Bay Hotel, Tobago

November 22, 2011

Chief Executive Officer of the Eco-Industrial Development Company of Tobago (E-IDCOT) Ltd

Mr. Earle Baccus

 

In 2001, almost all of Tobago’s exports were tourism related.  In 2005, the World Travel and Tourism Council reported that as much as 97% of the island’s exports were related to the tourism industry- thus making Tobago one of the world’s most tourist-dependent economies.

 

Tourism is a generator of huge employment numbers.  In fact, the same Report of the World Travel and Tourism Council, credited the industry with employment figures of 57% of the island’s workforce.  In 2007, a total of 15,000 persons were employed in the industry, representing a decline of 6% from the 2005 level. Tourism is also said to be the fastest growing industry in the world, generating huge profits in good times. Sadly, however, good times could be easily interrupted by misfortune caused by conflict of one kind or the other, threats of epidemics and by disruptive serious natural disasters.  While these profits do in fact filter down to suppliers of goods and some services, unfortunately, it does not always get to industry workers in the ratios that seem reasonable and just.  It is clear that given the fragility of the tourism industry, no country that can do otherwise, would wish to rely solely on that industry to drive its economy and provide the level of predictability on which the population should depend. But this is exactly where Tobago finds itself today.

 

However, given Tobago’s accessibility to relatively cheap energy, a fairly efficient workforce, consistent weather, reliable utilities, including a good road network, and other infrastructure among its other attributes, it was a no-brainer for the THA, through its enabling agency, the Eco- Industrial Development Company of Tobago (E-IDCOT) Limited, to move the productive sector forward as the major engine of growth in the non-tourism sector, by pursuing the development of the Cove Eco-Industrial and Business Park.

 

But the Park cannot simply be 140 acres of green space, interconnected with smooth, well-surfaced roads, beautifully lit by the most up-to-date solar panels, with a number of attractive structures.  The Park that is being built, with the most modern and state of the art infrastructure will be geared primarily to the development of people, their intellectual and innovative capacity, their dexterity and their skills, using indigenous primary resources, whenever and wherever available, to manufacture unique and distinctive products, while at the same time driving the island’s economic fortunes forward and upward.  In thus regard therefore, a fully equipped Innovation Centre will be the research and development nerve center of the Park that will take progressive business ideas from the concept stage to profitable commercialization. The Innovation Center will have an intimate collaborative relationship with the UWI, UTT and CARIRI, where research work from these institutions will be commercialized with a focus on the utilization of indigenous raw materials for the production of unique, high value gourmet-type products.

 

In fact, Cove must be seen simply as one of several such Parks situated at various locations on the island that will engage the entire population in developing entrepreneurship through innovation through-out the island – an island that must remain green and clean in the process. We at the Eco-Industrial Development Company of Tobago are committed to the realization of these goals.

 

The Cove Eco-Industrial and Business Park that we are in the process of completing will be the first of its kind in the English–speaking Caribbean. There are others in Central and North America, Europe and Asia. These are all huge establishments, several times the size of the one we are building.  But as a small island there is the unique opportunity to involve the communities in their environment in the entrepreneurial process.

   - Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Earle Baccus

Ladies and Gentlemen, we at E-IDCOT will not be satisfied until we see innovative products being manufactured at the Park and being exported under the “Made in Tobago” brand.  I am told that when development of the designs for Cove had begun and after the numerous consultation sessions with the residents of Lowlands, Hampden, Mt. Pleasant and the environs had taken place, that a letter was received from a Tobagonian domiciled in the State of California expressing interest in establishing an operation at Cove to manufacture pharmaceuticals, using indigenous plants and herbs.  Some of us will remember the several cures and remedies that our mothers and grandmothers successfully applied whenever we were overcome by illness.  They ranged from “bush” tea to exotic poultices – and they all worked.  We only have to recall how successful “Buckley’s Cough Syrup” has proved to be.  Some of us may also recall the “De Witts Kidney and Bladder Pills” that turned our urine green, or was it blue? And we must remember the now world-famous “Angostura Bitters” patented and manufactured right here in Trinidad and Tobago, along with our ‘Doubles’, ‘Benne Balls’, Steel Pan and the       G-Pan.  We only have to look at the skills and the workmanship employed in the manufacture of our Carnival costumes and we have all recently witnessed the exploits of Ms. Anya Ayoung- Chee in the fashion world, to understand and appreciate the vast innovative talents of our people.

 

Indeed, our cocoa is considered to be among the very best quality in the world. It is therefore the intention of E-IDCOT to support an application to establish a high quality chocolate manufacturing operation at Cove at the earliest opportunity.

 

Two fairly large plants have been established at Cove, namely T&TEC Generating Plant and the NGC, natural-gas receiving, processing and transmission facility.  There is an argument that the presence of these facilities do nothing to enable the Park to qualify as an Eco-Park since T&TEC in particular has been emitting harmful gases into the environment.  Currently, as diesel fuel is used, this argument is valid.  However, the Commission was only permitted to construct the facility at Cove on the condition that the plant will be fueled by clean natural gas which, it is expected, will be used to fire the generating plant before the first factory shell in the Park is ready for use at the end of the first quarter next year. NGC will be engaged in environment-friendly operations and therefore the integrity of the environment will not be negatively affected by the operations at these facilities. E-IDCOT proposes to very jealously guard the reputation of the Park as an Eco-friendly investment location.

 

There is also a contention that Cove should not qualify as an eco-park since it is proposed to destroy portions of the reef to facilitate shipping at the marine facility that will serve the Industrial Estate. I have recently seen an advertisement inviting RFP’s for feasibility studies to be undertaken regarding the construction of an Industrial port at Cove and a Cruise Ship Facility at Plymouth.  Until these studies have been concluded, all is simply conjecture.

 

In closing, let me indicate that we will complete the civil and utilities infrastructure works at the Park, by the end of this year.  We are also about to sign a contract for the construction of a 10,000 sq. ft. factory shell to be followed by a 24,000 sq. ft. business incubator which will provide a nurtured environment for start-up and fledgling businesses.  A contract for the construction of another factory shell with the same floor space is to be awarded soon thereafter.

 

We are in discussion with an institution that has indicated an intention to establish a facility to commercialize research work on indigenous raw materials for the benefit of Tobago entrepreneurs.