Ronald Theodore is the President of the Grenada Investment Development Corporation and as such charged with the task of promoting Grenada overseas for the purpose of attracting investment and new business.
In this interview, Ronald introduces us to Grenada and shares how the Caribbean nation is approaching place marketing, focused on investment attraction for the country’s economic development.
Ronald, do you remember the first time you thought about “Brand Grenada”? What triggered your interest in representing and promoting your country overseas?
Grenada has always been known as the Isle of Spice. This has been attributed to its abundance of spices; cinnamon, cloves and nutmegs. Added to this, Grenada has natural beauty, excellent cuisines and rich history. In recent years Grenada has officially been branded as Pure Grenada – the Spice of the Caribbean.
The first time I thought about brand Grenada was during one of my first trips to Europe in a cold month where my reflections strayed to Grenada. I must admit, my primary thoughts were definitely on the warm weather, white sand beaches and picturesque sunsets. However, my deeper thoughts were on what my country has to offer and how this message was being told to the world.
That thought of the real message of Grenada is always forefront in my mind, especially as I am involved in promoting Grenada as an investment location. What has always given and continues to give great satisfaction is the ability to “land” an investor and to reap the benefits of that investment project.
As President of the Grenada Investment Development Corporation (GIDC), you oversee the country’s efforts in attracting and retaining foreign direct investment. In your view, what does Grenada stand for today, as brand? And how has it changed/evolved during the last years?
As previously indicated, Grenada was known as the “Isle of Spice” due to the abundance of spices and being recognized as the only Caribbean island to export the largest quantity of nutmeg to the international market.
While the country had the reputation as the “Isle of Spice”, it was never an officially established brand identity. Over the last few years, the country has made strides to develop an established identity and is now officially branded as “Pure Grenada- The spice of the Caribbean”.
Pure is a true reflection of what Grenada stands for today – unspoilt natural environment; white sand beaches, lush verdant mountains, interesting flora and fauna, cascading waterfalls and, importantly, untapped investment opportunities.
Investment opportunities can be found across a wide range of sectors. Priority areas for investment in Grenada include tourism (boutique hotels, villas, condominiums, attractions, marinas); manufacturing (agro-processing, light manufacturing), information communications technology and business process outsourcing; health services (retirement homes, hospitals, health clinics and medical facilities) and educational services.
To your mind, how does the tourism brand, “Pure Grenada – The Spice of the Caribbean” impact the country’s ability to attract foreign investment and business?
Pure …. Unspoilt …. Untapped. This captures the essence of the country and thus the brand truly assists in promoting Grenada as an investment location – Grenada is certainly not overly developed and possess many untapped investment opportunities across various sectors. Additionally, the brand allows for the promotion of sustainable and environmentally friendly investment, all in an effort to maintain the “Pure” identity of the country.
In a nutshell, how does GIDC promote foreign investment and support the Grenadian business community?
In addition to promoting Grenada as an investment location through attending strategic conferences, advertising and placing articles in publications, the corporation’s website and other social media platforms, GIDC has been adopting a more targeted approach to promoting investment opportunities. Those are identified, and investment opportunity profiles are created. The aim being to match these profiles with potential investors.
GIDC’s services include business and investment advice on doing business in the country; processing of applications for investment incentives; assisting investors to secure all required approvals, certificates, work permits, land for projects’ realisation, and such other support and assistance as investors may require to establish and to operate their projects.
Business support services offered by us also include technical assistance for business diagnostics and the preparation of business plans and access to affordable factory space.
Securing adequate funding for country branding and promotional initiatives can be challenging. How is GIDC financed, institutionally, and how do you measure return on investment?
GIDC’s main source of revenue is obtained through the operations of its Business parks. Our Business park facilities continue to be a location of choice for entrepreneurs to develop and grow businesses.
Affordable space for warehousing, manufacturing, container parking facilities and office service operations are available within three (3) parks: – Frequente – St. George, Seamoon – St. Andrew and St. Patrick. The parks all have access to excellent electricity, sound broad band connectivity and a host of other common facilities which can enable effective business operations.
In addition, GIDC receives support from Government which is used to assist with the promotion of Grenada as an investment location.
Moreover, the corporation has benefited and hopes to continue to benefit from grant funding from external donor agencies, such as European Development Fund, Compete Caribbean, Caricom Development Bank etc. – for the execution of specific projects aimed at fostering business development in Grenada.
Throughout the years, which countries have served you as inspiration, in terms of country branding and investment attraction?
It is always important to benefit from the experiences of others. We have seen the approaches of Jamaica, Colombia, Ireland and several African countries inclusive of Mauritius in country branding and FDI attraction.
While it is important to learn from players who have done well, the lessons must always be placed in context as one explores the methods of implementing lessons learnt.
Imagine you are approached at a conference by someone recently put in charge of attracting investment to an island nation far away from yours – asking you for advice. Which do’s and don’ts would you recommend?
- Be investment focused: It is important that the island has a mindset and attitude to attracting FDI.
- Invest heavily to develop the skills of persons within the sectors in which you want to attract investment.
- Have a supportive investment climate: Ensure that you have relevant laws and regulations in place to support the investment regime.
- Don’t go it alone – form strategic alliances and networks with all the players within the investment generation system.
- Don’t try to do it all –focus on niche markets and be strategic in your approach.
Having also previously served as the President of the Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (CAIPA), which would you consider the main challenges – or hurdles – for the region, in terms of attracting investment?
The region is unknown and most of the persons who are aware of it see it as a place for fun and sun. Business is not seen as a priority. We must continue to showcase the successful business stories in the Caribbean region and continue to promote the islands as investment locations.
We all have limited budgets however, we can work together to promote our countries. –“Working together Works!!”
Which major trends are likely to influence the work of country branding and FDI professionals in the years ahead?
Interesting question. One trend will be increased competition: destinations are recognizing the importance of FDI and becoming more competitive.
The second will be increased/improved technology which will fuel digitization of services and increased online transactions.
Social and environmental practices will also be an influence: countries will be expected to accept and adjust policies that are favourable for climate initiatives, such as climate-smart or green projects aimed at attracting socially conscious and sustainable investments.
In addition, as a result of increased globalization, more industries/firms/companies are expanding abroad through direct investment.
Anything else you’d like to mention?
Grenada is not only an excellent tourism destination but an excellent investment destination. Investors are encouraged to enter in and operate enterprises in all fields of lawful economic activity. There is minimum entry requirement, no restriction on foreign ownership, no restrictions on foreign currency transactions, easy movement of capital, profit and dividends and attractive fiscal incentives. Foreign investors are given equal treatment to domestic investors.
Apart from its robust Citizen By Investment programme, Grenada has a full range of investment incentives available to investors. Such incentives include investment allowances, deductible expenditure and customs duty exemptions.
Detailed information on doing business and investing in Grenada can be obtained from the website of the Grenada Investment Development Corporation.
Thank you, Ronald.
Connect with Ronald Theodore on LinkedIn or stay up to date on latest investment opportunities by following the Invest Grenada Facebook page.