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Enterprise Cayman (Outreach)

Cayman’s Special Economic Zones: An Engine for Creating a Sustainable Economy

Cayman’s Special Economic Zones: An Engine for Creating a Sustainable Economy

From driving international trade and global value chains to promoting sustainability, entrepreneurship, and innovation, special economic zones (SEZs) have emerged as pivotal players in driving global trade, fostering innovation, and promoting sustainable development – SEZs are playing an increasingly critical role in our global and local economies.

The Cayman Enterprise City Socioeconomic Development Project: A Snapshot

The Cayman Enterprise City Socioeconomic Development Project, known as “CEC”, is actively fostering a sustainable and prosperous future – one that supports the growth of local economies and communities while activating collective benefits from global market dynamics. CEC is enabling the development of a sustainable growth economy through its commitment to attracting new knowledge-and technology-based sectors and developing a thriving technology-driven ecosystem in the Cayman Islands.

Unique to the Caribbean, CEC offers businesses of all sizes from all over the world a welcoming tax-neutral business environment and access to a vibrant community. The project is transforming Cayman’s economic landscape and the Caymanian led leadership team is dedicated to enriching the Cayman Islands community by promoting economic diversification, by cultivating an innovative platform designed for everyone, and by offering meaningful opportunities for Caymanians and future generations to come. We’re meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

Connecting the Dots: A Holistic Approach to Sustainable Economic Growth

In our journey to sustainability, CEC's impact can be dissected into three key focus areas – Economic Growth, Social Impact, and Environmental Outcomes. CEC’s strategic approach to economic sustainability has been outlined below and illustrates how CEC’s SEZs are not only driving economic prosperity but are also creating high-growth jobs and delivering a low resource intensity model for the benefit of the Cayman Islands and beyond.

1) Economic Growth

In laying the groundwork for sustainable economic growth, CEC orchestrates a broad range of activities, from attracting global investors and crafting a business-friendly environment to delivering substantial economic impact and by nurturing innovation. These pillars collectively contribute to the transformation of the Cayman Islands into a robust and diversified economic hub.

  • Attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and Talent: CEC's award-winning status is attracting foreign direct investment at an impressive, yet sustainable rate. The free zone project is providing attractive returns for investors while streamlining processes and, over the span of 11 years, has attracted over 500 global companies to establish a genuine physical presence in the Cayman Islands. Many SEZ companies are substantial global institutions led by top executives and industry experts. Some notable companies that have established a genuine physical presence with CEC include Brave, AvalancheChainlinkReal Vision, and Vox Royalty.
  • Delivering on Economic Impact: The CEC project aids in the absorption of foreign capital. A 2022 Economic Impact Assessment (EIA) by Marla Dukharan notes that contributions to the Cayman Islands economy reached almost USD $147 million in 2022, bringing the total economic impact to USD $806.8 million in 11 years – and in 2022, CEC generated USD $5.3 million in government revenues, which is 10 times more than CEC’s cost in concessions to the government.
  • Supporting Economic Diversification: Special economic zones act as a bridge – facilitating the expansion of new and diverse industries, connecting internal and external economies, and supporting Cayman's diversification beyond our core tourism and financial services sectors. the CEC socioeconomic development project has successfully established Cayman as the perfect home for projects in the knowledge and technology space, including those focused on FinTech, MedTech, software development, artificial intelligence, Web3, commodities & derivatives trading, maritime, aviation, media, and digital marketing.
  • Nurturing Innovation and Research & Development (R&D): CEC encourages innovation and provides a platform for groundbreaking research. Now home to impressive new “Cayman-born” projects such as MuscleWiki and CareerPoint, CEC is enhancing the entrepreneurial environment for small and medium-sized enterprises in the Cayman Islands.
  • Promoting Transparency, Good Governance, and the Highest Level of Compliance: CEC uses economic impact assessments to ensure alignment between its strategy and the positive impact it aims to make in the community. Economic impact assessments and reports are published annually and are made accessible online.

"At Cayman Enterprise City, we've integrated economic resilience and sustainability principles into everything we do. Our Special Economic Zones have created a vibrant and growing knowledge- and tech-focused ecosystem that attracts foreign direct investment, creates economic diversity, and enables knowledge transfer from sectors that have historically not been a significant part of Cayman’s economy. We believe that our ongoing efforts will continue to contribute to the strength and resiliency of Cayman’s economy and help provide opportunity and lasting prosperity for our community today and for future generations." - Charlie Kirkconnell, CEO, Cayman Enterprise City.

2) Social Impact

Delivered primarily through CEC’s non-profit organisation (NPO), Enterprise Cayman, the socio-economic development project not only addresses immediate economic growth and diversification demands but also provides a vibrant platform for career seekers and Cayman’s growing number of entrepreneurs. CEC and Enterprise Cayman together provide a sustainable foundation for long-term societal resilience, prosperity, and inclusion.

  • Creating High-Growth Jobs of the Future: SEZs drive job creation and CEC is no exception to the rule. CEC is creating new companies and jobs within high-growth sectors at a faster rate than the wider local economy. In a 2022 EIA report, CEC experienced a 25% increase in new company formations while Cayman as a whole saw a 9% increase.
  • Crafting a Resilient Environment: CEC prepares Caymanians for the future of work by providing skills training transferable to upcoming sectors. By creating job opportunities in high-growth sectors that can be done remotely, the vulnerability of the population to any local or global shock is reduced.
  • Reducing Inequality: By offering accessible training, professional development, support for entrepreneurs and professional level internships, CEC is creating greater opportunities for all and helping to break the cycle of intergenerational inequality.
  • Fostering Social Inclusion: CEC's contributes to closing the skills gap by supporting meaningful employment opportunities for Caymanians and by produce inclusive networking and knowledge-sharing opportunities for everyone.
  • Developing an Inclusive Ecosystem Designed for Innovation: By fostering collaboration and knowledge-sharing among businesses, industry experts, academia, and governmental bodies, CEC drives innovation and economic mobility. In 2023 alone, CEC’s NPO produced 83 events, placed 25 interns, and provided 260 unique volunteer engagements and opportunities for industry experts to transfer their knowledge.
  • Raising Living Standards: SEZs are helping to reduce and eradicate poverty and making a notable contribution in lifting the living standard of people. A 2022 EIA report illustrates that monthly salaries for locals working for CEC companies earn almost double than their counterparts outside of the SEZs – and the estimated monthly earnings of Caymanians working at SEZ companies are CI $7,232 (US $8,683), higher than average earnings of Caymanians overall.


3) Environmental Outcomes

We envision a future where economic growth aligns seamlessly with environmental stewardship. These efforts underscore CEC's commitment to fostering a symbiotic relationship between business expansion and sustainable environmental outcomes.

  • Developing a Low Resource Intensity Model: The SEZ enables companies to scale using shared infrastructure, reducing the need for additional space in order to double revenues.
  • Focusing Growth on Progressive Industries: CEC's focus on high productivity sectors, which allows the Cayman Islands to increase GDP with less strain on natural resources.
  • Delivering Tech-ready Environments: CEC promotes sustainability by creating optimised environments with smaller footprints, driving a shift towards a knowledge-based economy – a sector that can easily scale irrespective of physical space.
  • Attracting Sustainable Businesses: CEC actively promotes sustainable practices and offers competitive business concessions to green-tech/clean-tech companies so they may re-invest back into their companies.


Charting a Sustainable Future with CEC's Socioeconomic Development Project

CEC serves as a transformative force, propelling the Cayman Islands into a future marked by resilience, innovation, and prosperity. By seamlessly intertwining sustainable growth with socioeconomic impact and meaningful deliverables, CEC has laid the foundation for a bright economic future.

Beyond moral imperatives, CEC's dedication to sustainability has proven to be a strategic advantage for the jurisdiction, strengthening Cayman's reputation as a global hub for innovation, and creating a resilient economic environment where people can fully develop their potential. Future success hinges on the collective embrace of both the private and public sectors, with political and economic decision-makers playing a pivotal role in defining and implementing sound economic policies.

As CEC paves the way for the Cayman Islands to lead new sectors, it not only contributes to a more resilient economic fabric but also positions the jurisdiction as a world-class hub for innovation. In the face of dynamic global challenges, CEC offers a model for sustainable development that other regions are currently looking to for inspiration. As we continue to grow, innovate, and contribute to sustainable development, CEC remains at the forefront, driving an important shift that can make Cayman’s economic fabric more resilient and the future more prosperous for everyone.

You can register a new business with CEC, or register a wholly owned subsidiary of a US or Canadian company -  a common structure. If you’re interested in setting up your business in the SEZ, get in touch with the CEC team today.

Kaitlyn Elphinstone
Kaitlyn Elphinstone is the Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer at Cayman Enterprise City (CEC) — responsible for driving new opportunities, championing innovation, engaging members of the public, and leading the company’s marketing and brand strategies in her enterprise-wide focused role.
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