EINDHOVEN–The St. Maarten Innovation Initiatives and Industries Link-up Event SMILE event on St. Maarten this Friday and Saturday serves as a platform for local entrepreneurs who want to be a partner in the island’s reconstruction process. There is certainly a role for the local private sector in recovery, in the opinion of SMILE host John Sandiford.
SMILE, an event of St. Maarten Hospitality and Tourism Association SHTA and several other partners, is considered the next step after the successful Build Back Better Week and the side-events Do-Tank and Do-Trade that were held in St. Maarten in March this year, where new ideas and concepts were created to accomplish a more resilient island future. Sandiford also hosted the Build Back Better Week events.
The event serves as a platform for innovations, business updates and networking, as well as to receive more clarity on how St. Maarten companies can take part in upcoming World Bank tenders. University of St Martin (USM) will host the event, allowing for simultaneous presentations and discussions as part of the tradeshow.
“It is the continuation of the energy and the great ideas that we saw during the Build Back Better Week. But this time it will be more about how to have St. Maarten businesses benefit from and participate in the reconstruction, to take things further in the execution. There is definitely a place and a role for them in this process,” SMILE host Sandiford told The Daily Herald shortly before leaving for St. Maarten. Sandiford is the owner of Antonio Media, a company that strategically designs and develops websites and apps, and also provides trainings.
This newspaper understood from other, unrelated sources that some local entrepreneurs are critical of the international tenders of the World Bank. The businesses say they are unfairly treated in the tendering process and are having a hard time to comply with the complex requirements in the international bidding process for larger projects financed through the Trust Fund managed by the World Bank.
A source explained that while for the initial, larger projects, there may have been a need for certain expertise that mostly only specialised, international companies could provide. And, while it is true that the smaller local companies may not have the required expertise, the island’s businesses could execute smaller sub-parts of larger projects.
Sandiford said he was not the right authority to respond to the complaints of local entrepreneurs, but he did say there were certainly opportunities for the island’s private sector for a collaboration. He said having island companies participate could have a positive effect on the execution of the projects because of their know-how of the local situation and market.
According to Sandiford, there is a big need for clarity of how local companies can participate in reconstruction projects. He said SMILE wants to contribute to this in a positive manner. “It is important to get together. To create an opportunity where people can ask questions, get clarity and have in-depth discussions.”
Representatives of the World Bank will be present at SMILE to provide information about the tendering system and how to participate. To facilitate the participation of local companies in the reconstruction process, the SMILE National Business Card has been created, a digital catalogue that will contain information about all participants which will be shared with all businesses present at the event.
The National Business Card will serve as a reference guide to all foreign entities seeking a local partner to do business with. In this way, the card will showcase St. Maarten companies and non-governmental organisations NGOs. The organisers are hopeful that the National Business Card will serve foreign specialised companies with an easy overview of local skills and experience including contact details and general information of participating companies willing to participate in joint ventures.
Key note addresses at SMILE will be given by 360̊ of Innovation from Aruba about the future of work, including a chapter on what the block-chain economy can mean for the Caribbean, and the Heineken Regatta Foundation about its new vision as the renowned event’s 40th anniversary approaches in 2020.
Some of the ideas and initiatives presented in the Build Back Better Week will be incorporated into SMILE, including the Green Box programme of Jennifer Carty, the winner of the Build Back Better Week innovation contest.
The Waste2Work start-up programme, a collaboration between Netherlands Red Cross and Open-House Foundation, will be launched during SMILE. The Waste2Work Incubator SXM Innovation Hub will provide space for a maximum of 15 St. Maarten Start-ups, establishing a collaborative industrial campus focused on re-use to reduce waste streams and other sustainable solutions.
Sandiford of Antonio Media, based in Eindhoven, has helped to give SMILE a push in the Netherlands. He did so by, among other things, announcing SMILE during a St. Maarten reconstruction informative event for Dutch companies in The Hague on September 28. He invited the Dutch companies to be part of SMILE and to establish joint ventures with St. Maarten companies.
Because of his large network and expertise, Sandiford was asked to be part of SMILE and to host the event. “I want to contribute to the recovery. Like so many other St. Maarteners, I too want to see my island restored,” said Sandiford who expected a large turn-out at SMILE. “It is a very important topic: for local businesses, for the recovery and for the island.”