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Boyea shaped, defined ECGC as we know it today

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Fri Dec 21, 2012

EDITOR: In last week’s edition of your newspaper, I read with pride, the centre-spread on the 35th anniversary commemoration of East Caribbean Group of Companies.{{more}}

ECGC continues to be well managed by a talented team of Vincentians and it remains a beacon of solid, sensible enterprise in the OECS. Most of the senior managers, led by the shrewd and discerning CEO – OK Davy, have invested more than 20 years of their working lives there. They have done very well despite the vagaries of the milling industry and the challenges of marketing their products in the Eastern Caribbean.

I recognise the vision and the strong entrepreneurial spirit of Sir Philip Veira who was prepared to take the risk by investing his dollars in a manufacturing concern that guaranteed nothing. SVG is the richer for persons such as Sir Philip who was certainly a pioneer in industry and it is my hope that his story will be well documented and shared with business students at secondary and tertiary levels and Vincentians as a whole.

There are several other persons who have contributed immensely to the success of ECGC during these 35 years. I am tempted to register their names here, but I fear that I may omit one or two important contributors. I wish however to note a singular omission from the article – the name of OA Ken Boyea.

To my knowledge, Ken Boyea engineered the operational growth and development of this ECGC. He knew the mechanics of the industry along its entire value chain. He knew the business well, and he “lived out” the politics of the business even better. He was an astute negotiator at every level – from trade union leaders, to longshoremen, to bakers, to grain suppliers, to bankers, to investors, to prime ministers and presidents. He had a clear and unique vision for the Company and he and his team set about the expansion of East Caribbean Flour Mills, supported by Sir Phillip and Lady Veira as well as by the Government of the day.

Ken Boyea held a very strong fixation on the production of quality goods. He saw no reason why a small enterprise in the south-eastern Caribbean could not compete on the world stage. He was firm in the view that given the diseconomies of scale that confronted them, it was only through goods of unbending quality that success could be attained and sustained.

He was exemplary in his treatment of his workers at ECGC. For him, there was no resource more important than a healthy, well-rounded worker. He set about improving the standards of the work environment and the benefits for the worker – the subsidized balanced meal, the free transport to and from designated areas, extensive training in related disciplines at all levels at no cost to employees, health and safety benefits, etc.

He also recognised that an expert was not at all defined as a person who was a native of foreign soil and of lighter skin pigmentation. He believed in the talent pool available locally and he believed in the pursuit of excellence through the team he helped to mould at Campden Park Bay. He attained many accolades as a business leader. The list is long and not detailed here.

The Chief as he was called by all, fraternised regularly with the employees at every opportunity – his door was always open for them to hear his independent and refreshing views on business in particular, as well as on life in general. Equally, he listened to fresh ideas from every station. He also absorbed the complaints and the concerns of bakers, chefs, supermarket owners and also company agents abroad. These complaints and concerns where however subordinate to the praise sung for ECGC and its then Managing Director.

On the lighter side, Chief played cricket and table tennis with staff when time permitted after work. He was also quite receptive to receiving the occasional sap at the domino table during the lunch hour.

Ken Boyea shaped and defined the ECGC that we know today. Even though there was considerable acrimony in some quarters at the time of his separation, his contribution should be recognised by all, no matter the position or perspective that you hold with respect to this outstanding Vincentian.

Joel Providence

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