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BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Four days in Atlanta


TONY BEST

BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Four days in Atlanta

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THE THEME is straightforward enough: “Barbados comes to Atlanta 2016.”

And when hundreds of Bajans in the diaspora – from New York, Florida, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland and America’s deep South to Texas and other states in between – assemble in Georgia’s capital on Thursday it would become clear why the bustling metropolis with an extensive network of tertiary educational institutions, a range of museums, top-notch health care institutions and sprawling corporate headquarters, not to mention the world’s busiest airport, was chosen as the meeting point during the Memorial weekend.

“We want to focus attention on economic development, education, health and the future and we couldn’t think of a better place to do this than in Atlanta,” asserted Colin Mayers, Barbados’ Consul-General in Miami and the rest of the South, including Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina and Georgia. “It’s a thriving centre of international trade, has a large Barbadian community and the expertise on which we can tap.

“With Barbados celebrating its golden jubilee of sovereignty, we see this milestone as an excellent opportunity to meet and consider this theme,” added the consul-general.

Dr Ed Layne, a physician specialist and Barbados’ honorary consul in Atlanta for about a quarter of a century, put it differently.

“Our dream is for Barbados to be transformed into the leading centre in the Caribbean for business and entrepreneurship, in keeping with the goal of the Government led by Freundel Stuart, the Prime Minister is the ideal place to undertake the efforts in America aimed at achieving that objective,”

Layne, a major coordinator of the undertaking, told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY: “The response from Barbadians in the US and from Atlanta generally has been overwhelming. We see this coming together as more than a party. It is an opportunity to do business and explore investment, promote good health and establish important educational links. There is a lot of business to be transacted here.”

With a population of about 450 000, more than half of whom are black and almost 40 per cent white, Atlanta is among America’s fastest growing cities and has a median family income of slightly less than US$38 000; the city is the central place of international and domestic trade and investment in the South.

Three Barbados Cabinet ministers, including Minister of Industry, International Business Commerce and Small Business Development Donville Inniss, and Minister of Tourism and International Transport Richard Sealy, are to play key roles in the four-day assembly. Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Maxine McLean, is also to address the conference and participate in a town hall. There will also be a Bridgetown Market on Saturday that features Barbados’ cultural underpinnings, especially its food, music, dance and visual arts.

The programme begins on Thursday morning with sessions on education and McLean is to focus attention on the “Barbados brand”. Several academics, including Professor Edward Davis, Dean of Clark-Atlanta University’s School of Business Administration, Dr Benn Konsynki of Emory University’s School of Business and Dr Dennis Kimbro, Professor and Director of Clark-Atlanta University Entrepreneurial Centre are to speak on such issues as the teaching of business and entrepreneurship in the 21st century and incorporating information system, digital commerce and other forms of technology into education systems.

That session will be followed by a panel discussion on entrepreneurship in developing countries. Next will be presentations on health care, Ebola, Chikungunya and the Zika virus, nursing and mental health as well as plans for the Barbados Hospice Initiative.

Dr Cardinal Warde, a Barbadian who is a professor of electrical engineering at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology and founder of the Caribbean Science Foundation, is to moderate a session on science on technology.

Friday will be devoted business development and after McLean’s presentation on the culture of business and entrepreneurship, Inniss and Sealy are to speak on economic issues and challenges such as investment opportunities in tourism, international business, and small business development.

Petra Roach, Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc.’s director of Marketing in North America, Andrea King, Cultural Industries Development Authority’s director, Rhoda Green, honorary consul in Charleston, Karen Linton, executive chef and president of the Linton Group who sits on the board of directors of the American Culinary Foundation in Atlanta, and Leslie Gittens of Invest Barbados are also to take part.

In addition, representatives of the highly successful Barbados Fertility Clinic, City of Bridgetown Credit Union, JIPA Caribbean Health Network, the National Cultural Foundation, the University of Alabama’s School of Business in Birmingham, the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, the Morehouse College’s Medical School, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute, and David Cutting, an international banker and a new honorary consul in Atlanta are also to address the gathering.

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