Although Barbados is still grappling with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the country remains open for business.
This is according to Minister of Energy, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Kerrie Symmonds, who was speaking yesterday at the launch of Starbucks Barbados, located at First Floor, Haggatt Hall Commercial Complex, St. Michael.
The Minister reminded the audience of the economic challenges that Government faced, including thousands of Barbadians still on the breadline and a shut down for approximately three months, earlier this year, that cost the country an estimated $30 million in lost economic opportunity.
Given this situation, Mr. Symmonds welcomed the investment and partnership with Starbucks at an extremely difficult time. “It is important to make the point that you are not opening your doors at a time where it is going to be business as usual in Barbados.
“I have mentioned that COVID is about one of the challenges we have had to face…It is vitally important therefore that an investment of this nature which comes at the right time, sends the right type of signal that Barbados is open for business and that Barbados will continue to be open for business. This type of investment, I just mentioned to you indicates to me, certainly, that it is another step along the road of not doing business as usual,” he underlined.
Acknowledging there were a number of indigenous food and beverage establishments across the island, Minister Symmonds intimated that overseas franchises “lend a necessary diversity in tourism-based economies”.
Likewise, the Minister noted that the foreign franchiser should feel welcomed and pointed out that if they or any local businesses encountered issues with trade facilitation or the ease in doing business, they should reach out to him with the promise that “my office does not treat to this set of economic circumstances as a business as usual thing and I don’t want you to dwell on formalities, lift the receiver and say ‘Minister there is a problem’ and we would do our best to accommodate and facilitate to ensure that you keep our people employed”.
The Small Business Minister described Starbucks as a key developmental partner adding that the company had made a name as far back as 2006, when they assisted Ethiopian farmers with the sale of specialty coffee under contract. He also expressed the hope of expansion to other locations.
Meanwhile, Country Manager for Starbucks Barbados, Simon Elias, said the company was pleased to be opening a branch in Barbados and added: “We are looking forward to creating connections with our partners, customers and the Barbadian people in ways that contribute not only to the local community but the well-being of the island.”
When opened, Mr. Elias said customers can expect high-quality, coffee from Latin America and other markets around the world and a space for partners and customers to “connect over a cup of coffee”.
Starbucks will employ 15 Barbadians and will welcome customers from tomorrow, Friday, July 30.