Givers Gain is the motto for Business Network International (BNI) and it is very much the same for members of the St. Lucia Manufacturers Association. It has been truly a success story for the St. Lucia Manufacturers Association  (SMA) where a committed group of manufacturers are sticking together to ensure that the manufacturers of St. Lucia get their share of the market on terms that are compatible to those experienced by manufacturers in other territories.

   The Association held its 3rd Annual General Meeting on Tuesday 15th June at the Cara Suites Hotel in La Pansee, Castries. The open session was addressed by President Laurie Barnard who brought the meeting up to date on the successes and involvement of the Association in negotiations at the regional and international levels. The Association is playing an active role in sensitizing its membership about developments in the various negotiating theatres.

   In recent months the Association was invited by the ECCB to participate in the Private Sector Consultative Group and by the CAIC to become a part of the Regional Manufacturers Association.

   The Guest Speaker was the Honourable Philip J. Pierre, Minister of Commerce, Industry, Investment & Consumer Affais who expressed satisfaction with the work of the Association and lauded its members for outstanding performance. He noted the recent success of Mr. Laurie Barnard on his being awarded Caribbean Entrepreneur of the Year – 2003 and his participation in the World Entrepreneur of the Year – 2003 which was held in Monaco a few weeks ago. (It was noted that Nine thousand firms participated and only 33 were in the final selection). He informed the meeting that the Government was doing its best to ensure that the various negotiations with respect to regional and international trade yield results that are in the best interest of local manufacturers/exporters. The Minister noted that St. Lucia has some world-class manufacturers and urged them to learn from each other. The Minister and President Barnard encouraged those present to get involved in the CSME process as it has a direct relation to their future. Trinidad was seen as a major player in international trade and places substantial pressure on local manufacturers to compete.

   I recall with a sense of pride when I promoted the idea that the time had come for the manufacturers of St. Lucia to establish their own Association so as to reap greater benefits for manufacturers. I was involved in the initial committee to establish the Association and became its first Associate Member. Whenever the history of the SMA comes to mind, Mr. Lawson Calderon must be remembered for his dedication in rallying the manufacturers to come together under the umbrella of the SMA. I take this opportunity to refresh the memory of those who were involved in taking the private sector to the next level with the formation of a St. Lucia Private Sector Council. Mr. Calderon left a document on the subject and I am convinced that the time has come for us to revisit the recommendations and take steps to implement them. This can well be his legacy to the private sector. His efforts must not be put aside.

   The initial fears have all subsided where it was felt that the manufacturers in forming their own association would cause a falling away from the Chamber but as I argued then, it is now reality that there is even closer collaboration between the two associations. The 2nd Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture is Mr. Laurie Barnard, President of the SMA. Almost all of the major manufacturers are members of the Chamber. In a joint effort at staging The National Exhibition to mark the 25th Anniversary of Independence the two associations have proven the effectiveness of collaboration. On the said day of the AGM of the SMA the Chamber hosted a Workshop on Doing Business with Martinique and 90% of the audience was manufacturers.

  The more, the better. Entrepreneurs getting involved in Associations is one sure way of networking for their companies and the benefit of the nation as a whole. Maybe in a few years there will be need for many more vibrant Industry Associations.

   The membership of the SMA is increasing and the association is poised to make even a greater contribution to decisions that affect manufacturers.

  Join an association and get involved in meeting the challenges that await us in the global economy. CSME is our first challenge. Let us do it right and build upon the experience.

   Keep the faith!