Chamber of Commerce keeps up with innovation at age 40 | THE DAILY HERALD

A past Chamber of Commerce forum on “Issues affecting businesses.”

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry (COCI) marks its fourth decade of existence today, Tuesday. This vital entity in the community has seen businesses grow from a few hundred a year to well over seven thousand today

The COCI, like much of the island, was impacted by Hurricane Irma on September 6, 2017. Through determination of the board, management and staff COCI operations resumed one month later.

Baker said last year, 2018, was considered “the year of rebuilding in order to reopen, so that our visitors can come and re-discover St. Maarten and experience the resilience of our people.”

In 2018, many persons opened or started new businesses. When asked the reason for opening a business now, a few of them said it was due to job loss after Irma. “They saw this as an opportunity to pursue their dream of being an entrepreneur,” said Anastacio Baker, COCI Executive Director.

Those opportunities taken led to the first time in history, COCI recording for 11 months out of the year, more businesses opened, and less businesses closed or became inactive when compared to 2017 (including the period prior to Irma).

“It is important to note that business registration has seen a significant increase, considering the major hurricane that affected St. Maarten last year. We recorded a total of 7,172 active businesses for 2018,” said Baker.

A total of 1,092 first registrations were seen in 2018. The months with the most registrations were January (116), August (116) and February (112). This total represents a 34-per-cent increase in new registrations as compared to the previous year with 817 registrations.

COCI has 7,172 active businesses on its books for 2018.

Today, COCI has continued its innovations and will launch this week “COCI 2 U” – a service that will allow business owners who do not have the time to visit the Chamber of Commerce to call or email their requests for yearly fee payment, excerpts, and other services and have these processed and delivered to their door. Payment will be processed upon delivery; cash, cheque, credit- and debit cards will be accepted.

Another innovation is the “Orientation Program” – a presentation for new or existing business owners, outlining the exact steps to take after registering their company with COCI. This programme was created based on feedback from business owners who did not know there was more to be done in setting up their company apart from registering with COCI.

COCI services can be accessed at its main office at the corner of Cannegieter Street and Zoutsteeg and at the Simpson Bay office in Simpson Bay Fish Market.

The COCI was founded by businessman Charles Vlaun, Francis Carty, Franklin Bryson, Vance James, Pieter Kanaar, Louis Peters, Edward Buncamper, Roy Salomon and José Lake, Jr. Today, their legacy is carried on by the current board that comprises five men and four women. The latter number has grown steadily over the years.

Heading the current board is Benjamin Ortega with Bertauz “Mr. Rude” Fleming as vice president, Louis Bute, treasurer, members Annuska Illis-Friday, Curtis Thomas, Charlise Philips, Nikhil Kukreja, Jennifer Carty, and Ife Badejo.

Baker expressed thanks to all past presidents, board members and the business community for their support for the past 40 years. This milestone also comes “with many thanks to the dedicated staff of St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry for their continued commitment and cooperation throughout the years,” he said.

Source: The Daily Herald