October 06, 2020
Much has been said today about the success and the future direction of the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Center. Most importantly, we have heard the personal stories of Bahamian entrepreneurs who needed institutional support at critical stages of their business development and found strength in the services available through the Access Accelerator.
In just one year, I have no doubt that the Access Accelerator has had the single greatest impact on advancing the development of micro and small businesses in The Bahamas than any institution before in such a short period. Not only because of the direct investments made through government-sponsored grants, loans, and equity financing, but more importantly because the Access Accelerator has strengthened the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem. It has created a structure to support a culture of entrepreneurial risk taking.
Everyday Bahamians can now find training, business advisory and financing available and accessible regardless of who they are, where they live or what their politics might be. This program transcends partisan politics and social class. Indeed, the apolitical nature of the Access Accelerator is no doubt largely responsible for some of its success.
At a time when the country is faced with the devastating impact of two exogenous shocks – the catastrophic Hurricane Dorian and the crippling coronavirus pandemic – the Government has been able to mobilize the SBDC to step in and support small business continuity and therefore the overall health of the domestic economy. And as we lay the foundation for an accelerated recovery, the Government is also working with the Access Accelerator to deepen its reach even further.
At the time of the launch last year, the Government allocated $25M to the Access Accelerator for a five-your programme. That amount grew significantly with the involvement of the private sector stakeholders bringing their own capital resources and joining the cause as partners. That is a testament to the public trust now invested in this important institution.
For this new fiscal year, this Administration took the unprecedented step of allocating some $55M to the Access Accelerator for disbursement to entrepreneurs under a range of new innovative programs. Strengthening the domestic economy is a core pillar of our Resilient Bahamas fiscal and economic plan so that a better quality of life is made possible for all Bahamians through the dignity of work.
As a government, we know that small businesses are the backbone of the Bahamian economy. We are not alone in this view. Small businesses are also the lifeblood of the U.S. economy: they create two-thirds of net new jobs, drive U.S. innovation and competitiveness, and account for 44 percent of U.S. economic activity. Small businesses account for 35 percent of all value generated in Australia and a fifth of that nation’s gross domestic product. In fact, the World Trade Organization reports that small businesses represent over 90 percent of the business population, 60-70% of employment and 55% of GDP in developed economies.
The surest bet that we have made as a government is on the entrepreneurial spirit of the Bahamian people. We did this in times of stability and continue to do so in times of uncertainty. Regardless of moment, betting on Bahamians is sure way to create jobs, build wealth, and develop a robust and resilient Bahamian economy.
In the coming year, the Access Accelerator intends to focus on funding and business development support in the following industries:
Fisheries and farming – with particular attention on value-added processing
Bahamian-owned vacation home rentals and smallscale tourism projects
Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Alternative Energy and energy efficiency
The Orange Economy or creative and cultural ventures, and · Manufacturing.
These investments will capture entrepreneurs operating in nontraditional sectors who often have difficulty accessing entrepreneurial support. This is most needed currently, for the task to recover from the ongoing crisis depends on the creativity, determination, and grit of the small business community. The entrepreneurs who come out of the Access Accelerator will not doubt help to diversify the economy as more persons get involved and explore nontraditional businesses.
The Access Accelerator is the Government’s tangible demonstration of commitment to small business and to creating opportunities to materialize wealth in non-traditional sectors of the economy. Communities that are normally locked out of such entrepreneurial opportunities can now see the Access Accelerator as a partner.
As I close, I wish to commend and congratulate the the Access Accelerator’s leadership and entire support team for the tireless work being done at a most challenging time. Every step along the way, the Government will continue to bet on Bahamians and invest in their entrepreneurial dreams and pursuits.
Happy Anniversary and, again, thank you.