My friend and mentor Quincy Jones once told me ‘you have to go, to know.’ After visiting 100 countries, I think I am finally beginning to fully understand and appreciate his wisdom. For instance, I have read about the Turks & Caicos Islands, and spoken to dear friends about the Turks & Caicos Islands, and I have done research about same — but I really didn’t ‘understand’ this island nation until I visited it.
This week I arrived in the Turks & Caicos Island nation, where I visited with successful entrepreneurs and government officials, and hotel workers. Yes, hotel workers. You can learn much from hotel workers. Much, much more than from reading high level research reports. The wisdom worker I spoke with upon my arrival here is a young lady named Kizzy.
By all accounts, Kizzy is not only an honest and hard working young lady, looking for only that which she earns with her energy and enterprise — she and her generation are effectively the future of and for island nations like Turks & Caicos. Turks has the same challenge that say Singapore had before it reinvented itself’ no natural resources from the land itself. The only natural resource were the priceless beaches and the water that surrounds this island nation, and Turks for one has made good use of its tourism potential. Something like 1.5M tourists visit the island nation every year by plane and boat. But is tourism enough here? The short answer is no.
The problem is that Kizzy cannot afford to move out from her parent’s home. Working full time plus, she cannot afford to live on her own. The cost of living here is simply too high for individuals like Kizzy, making it difficult for her and countless others like her, to contribute to society and nation. But there are answers for island nations like Turks & Caicos, and there are answers for Kizzy too. Let me start with nation.
The business model for island nations need to be modernized, and taking a page out of the book of a Singapore is a great place to start. In short, Singapore decided that it’s best natural resource was not oil or metals, but it’s their people. This is also the answer for island nations.
When Kizzy cannot afford to rent an apartment, it depresses income property values for inventors who are not showing up to build rental units and homes, it limits tax revenue to the government (another policy which needs a fresh look), and caps economic activity that stems from this — like the purchase of appliances for that apartment, phones, furniture, utilities, insurances, etc, etc.
When Kizzy cannot afford to purchase a car, it creates the same limiting effect on the automotive sector.
When Kizzy cannot afford to take her friends out to dinner, it means that the only restaurants and eateries that will be started or will survive and thrive, are those catering to foreigners and tourists.
This is not a criticism of the government here or anywhere else I visit (I will be meeting with the Premier of Turks & Caicos while here), it is a rallying call for a ‘reset’ to and for our lives. It is a loving suggestion, that we look at everything afresh and new. It’s time for a software upgrade on policies, approaches, how we lead, and how we live our lives.
Fact: As I have said in my bestselling book, “How The Poor Can Save Capitalism,” 70% of the largest economy in the world — the U.S. Economy — is consumer spending. Consumer spending is driving the largest economy on the planet.
Fact: As I have also said in the book, and underscore in the day-to-day work of the organization I founded, Operation HOPE, the thing that drives every major growing economy is the growth of starts, shoot ups, entrepreneurs and small business owners. In fact, half of all jobs in the U.S., are 100 employees or less, and 70% of all jobs in the U.S., are 500 employees or less. 95% plus of all jobs in the 12th largest economy in the world — the city of Los Angeles — are employers with 100 employees or less.
Turks & Caicos Islands (and so many other places of potential like it) now need to embrace their young generation as both their best potential for economic growth (job creation through an environment of small business and entrepreneurship creation), and a mechanism for the growth of stability of both economy, and the middle class.
The Kizzy’s of the world, are the future. We need to embrace them. Support them. Root for them. They are literally, our hope.
John Hope Bryant