New Dart deal: Cayman’s next ‘Golden Age’


As published in the Cayman Compass: 6 FEBRUARY 2015

"Over the past year we have been working with Dart Realty to negotiate and finalize the third amendment to the controversial NRA agreement. … My government listened to our tourism industry, our investors and to our constituents. Dart Realty, always an engaged corporate citizen, listened to us. … Dart’s return on this investment is inextricably tied to the continuing success of both the tourism and financial services industries and securing growth in all of those industries’ sectors.”

— Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin

Now that’s the sort of talk we love to hear from the leader of our country.

Premier McLaughlin’s verbalization of support for Dart’s intended US$1.3 billion investment in Cayman over the next 20 years, and perhaps more importantly, his government’s facilitation of that investment, are welcome developments worthy of applause.

While at times we have disagreed with Premier McLaughlin’s rhetoric in regard to Dart’s plans specifically, and Cayman’s economic trajectory generally, no one can quarrel with the fruits of the Progressives government’s behind-the-scenes negotiations. Certainly not us.

All politicians (at least, the good ones) have the ability to converse in multiple languages, depending on their audience, whether that’s constituents, businesspeople, fellow lawmakers, overseas leaders, etc.

The important thing is that Premier McLaughlin and his government, apparently, and appropriately, said the proper things at the only place that matters, that is at the negotiating table with Dart. The doings at that discussion table have set Cayman’s table, so to speak, for an economic banquet from which our citizens will feast for decades.

The company’s designs for the Seven Mile Beach corridor, starting with Cayman’s first two automotive “underpasses” that will create a pedestrian corridor through Camana Bay from sound to sea, and including the doubling of the Town Centre, multiple hotels and several waves of new residential units, will fundamentally change the island in ways that, at this point, cannot even be anticipated.

While the Dart companies are the largest and arguably most adept developers in the Cayman Islands, they are far from alone in their financial expressions of confidence in our future.

For example, the owners of the former Hyatt are planning to rebuild as the new “Britannia Hotel”; in Beach Bay, developers are pursuing a five-star resort; in Frank Sound, the Ironwood group is seeking to build an ambitious golf course-oriented development (enabled by an extension to the East-West Arterial). Farther east, Health City Cayman Islands is just starting to ramp up; even farther east, David Morritt continues to expand upon his resort offerings.

We can’t escape the distinct impression that Cayman is positioned on the cusp of another “Golden Age” of prosperity.

As the private sector steps up its investments in Cayman’s future economy, our government should similarly step up its investment in the future of the Caymanian people. That means education, public safety and infrastructure.

Premier McLaughlin noted in his speech Thursday at the Cayman Economic Outlook conference, “Even the Cayman Compass was forced to admit in its Oct. 27, 2014, editorial that the future of Cayman’s tourism is sky high.”

We weren’t forced to, Mr. Premier. We wanted to.

Indeed, our optimism in regard to Cayman’s tourism industry is something we were ebullient to share. But let us amend slightly our remark that the premier cited:
The future of Cayman’s entire economy is sky high.