For the first time since the 2017 hurricanes, businesses from around the territory showcased their offerings last week at the Buy BVI Trade Expo.
The event — which the BVI Chamber of Commerce hosted Friday and Saturday in the Multi-purpose Sports Complex in Road Town — drew 33 exhibitors and some 250 attendees, organisers said.
“Some persons were saying they didn’t know about a particular service existing,” Chamber of Commerce Chairwoman Shaina Smith-Archer said. “That was one of the things for this year that was really great to see: that a lot of new, as well as past, exhibitors came back from previous years.”
Though the event drew barely half as many exhibitors as the previous Buy BVI expo, which was held in April 2017, organisers and attendees were nevertheless happy to be back this year.
“It’s great. I respond with the people, with the public,” said Kenneth Matthews, who was representing K’s Plumbing. “I’m quite interested … to see what the BVI businesses have to offer.”
At his booth, Mr. Matthews exhibited a variety of water-related wares.
“We’ve got new things on the market now,” he said. “It breaks away from the old traditional way and into the future. Right now, we are in the 21st Century. We have already passed this stage of the 20th Century. We have to modernise.”
Some presenters, like Mr. Matthews, were only able to attend the event on Saturday, while others — like the Department of Labour and Workforce Development — could only attend Friday, according to Ms. Smith-Archer.
“The turnout has been really good despite the rain; yesterday was great,” she said on Saturday. “Of course, this morning was a bit slow, but things have picked up now that the weather has cleared up a little bit.”
From Republic Bank, Assistant Manager Kwana James said she appreciated the opportunity to meet with potential customers outside of regularly scheduled business hours.
“People who are not really able to come into the bank … during the busy times and so on, they get the opportunity now to do that and meet with us one-on-one,” she said. “We discuss our products, our services; they get to meet our capable staff. All in all, it’s a good event.”
Exhibitors also included non-profit organisations such as the BVI Red Cross.
“I want to say kudos to the BVI Chamber of Commerce for organising the trade show this year,” said Maria Abraham, secretary of the Red Cross Governing Board. “I hope that they continue and more businesses come and showcase the services that they offer. But for us, the Red Cross, it’s an excellent avenue to show all the services that we offer.”
Going forward, the Chamber of Commerce plans to resume hosting the Buy BVI Trade Expo annually — as it strived to do from 1997 until the 2017 hurricanes, Ms. Smith-Archer said.
Other plans are also in the works.
“One of the key things that we would like to see is actually develop a comprehensive economic strategy for at least the next five years, because we have to look at how we start to move out of economic recovery, from the hurricanes and the pandemic, to now a trajectory of growth,” she added.
Amid legislators’ ongoing public spat over whether the VI economy is moving slowly (as opposition members claim) or at a healthy speed (as Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley claims), the Chamber of Commerce would like to see the numbers, she added.
“If we set a goal of … three percent but it’s only at 1.5, then I can calmly say it’s sluggish,” Ms. Smith-Archer said. “But if there are no goals in terms of what is the target — what it is that we’re working towards — how’re we going to actually get it done?”
After attending the Caribbean Investment Forum last week in the Bahamas, Ms. Smith-Archer also argued that the VI should seek new investment.
“Right now, whether it’s foreign or domestic, it’s needed; people are needed to initiate the business so that we can have economic growth,” she said. “It was really enlightening to see what’s happening around the region and see where our game plan needs to be. We can take pages out of other people’s book where need be to create a model that works.”
In the coming months, the Chamber of Commerce is planning other events as well.
“Annually, we do a business awards gala. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do that this year, but we definitely have that on the schedule for next year.” Ms. Smith-Archer said. “We also are doing the Spring Regatta; that’s a partnership that we do with the Royal BVI Yacht Club … and we’re going to look at business after-hours activities. Those are our networking mixers, in addition to membership luncheons.”