COMPLAINING is what Gibraltarians do in our spare time, and politics is a pastime. On week-days, however, we are in business.
The visitor in a hurry may not appreciate that our city is an international commercial, finance and transportation hub. Of course, everyone notices the bustling city centre.
Shop rents in Main Street average between £50 and £60 per square foot per annum depending on location, with the northern half from the main square or ‘Piazza’ to Casemates Square being more sought after.
Moreover, to get a foothold, new entrants may have to pay premiums potentially running into the hundreds of thousands of pounds depending on location and size.
Getting into Gibraltar’s tight business circle is not for the faint-hearted. Vision and tenacity are required.
An overseas client of my firm’s property section has slowly been establishing himself here since 2010 and now has three highly successful retail outlets in the city centre.
He studied what was on offer and went for innovation – product lines and services that were not already properly covered. There is always room here for people with new ideas.
At another level, there is no doubt that Gibraltar is technology ready.
I refer to e-commerce. Since its genesis in or about 1998, internet gaming has made Gibraltar its principal global base. Currently there are 35 licensees.
I do not like the expression ‘exclusive’ but it is accurate here; when it comes to iGaming, only the best and most reputable companies which meet the Licensing Authority’s exacting requirements are allowed to set up shop.
It is not all about gaming though. Leaders in other areas of internet business also have headquarters and operations here. The Gibraltar Financial Services Commission currently regulates no less than 412 organisations ranging from medium sized to world industry leaders.
I have not name dropped here because of the sheer number of operators but you can check for yourself in the FSC’s and Gaming Commissioner’s web sites.
As a lawyer, I like to think that what attracts this kind of business is our sophisticated, cutting edge provision of corporate vehicles and systems in a legislative structure within the English common law tradition.
Office space continues to be built to accommodate new and expanding businesses.
This month, property specialist Fairhomes inaugurated Gibraltar’s own 253,600 square foot World Trade Center, the investment totalling in excess of £100,000,000, with 95% of office space pre-let by its inauguration on February 16.
Several other office blocks are in the pipeline; a testament to continuing confidence in uncertain times.
On Gibraltar’s coast, the dockyard which boasts three of the largest dry docks in the Mediterranean works 24/7, normally at full capacity.
As the Port Authority website tells us: “Gibraltar’s ship repair and conversion facilities are among the most extensive in the Mediterranean. It is therefore hardly surprising that Gibraltar’s shipyard and repair companies are always busy, and where the level of quality workmanship and expertise is renowned”.
Gibraltar is the busiest bunkering port in the Mediterranean. Further, in 2016 the Port of Gibraltar welcomed 350,000 visitors on 227 cruise ships to add to the numbers that come by land and air.
Arrivals at Gibraltar International airport show a year on year increase. Most of our hotels have undergone refurbishments or are in the process of undertaking major improvements. New hotels are under construction.
The Nature Reserve (apes, St. Michael’s cave, the views) continue to attract tourists by the million, new and better bars and restaurants are opening all the time…
As I said at the top of this article, “complaining is what Gibraltarians do in our spare time” and as I write this early on a rainy Sunday morning allow me to finish this tale of triumph and success with a few words of caution.
Aside from its geographic and legal advantages, the machinery of business and industry in Gibraltar, like everywhere else, depends on a workforce that is fully active, properly trained and imbued with the work ethic.
At the moment, private enterprise has to compete for human resources with the public sector which, of course, is funded by income from business.
In any event, Gibraltar needs to continue to be open to overseas investors, business and workers.
Resources such as the University of Gibraltar and the College of Further Education must continue to be at the heart of Gibraltarian ambitions to maintain business readiness, create economic resilience and attract new players.