roof shot of solar panels and camana bay

Investing in Cayman: Dart's long-term commitment to the country

Last month, Dart added new properties to its real estate portfolio. Dart is already a significant stakeholder in the country’s tourism industry, and these acquisitions are a testament to Dart’s long-term commitment to the Cayman Islands.

With over US $1.3 billion invested in the Cayman Islands to date, Dart is committed to ensuring the continued prosperity and stability of Cayman as a destination for visitors, business and investment.

“Whether considering new business opportunities or funding for philanthropic initiatives, our approach is aligned,” says Mark VanDevelde, who is CEO of Dart Enterprises, the holding company for all Dart entities in the Cayman Islands and runs the family office. “The purpose of our Cayman-based activities is to contribute to sustainable economic growth and to enhance the quality of life for all who live, work or visit here.”

This commitment has guided Dart’s activities in the Cayman Islands since founder and shareholder Ken Dart first bought his home in Grand Cayman in the mid-90s. Impressed by the island’s physical beauty and by the sophistication of the financial and legal industry, Mr. Dart set up his family office which has evolved into a group of companies that today employs nearly 700 people in Cayman and has investments around the world.

roof shot of solar panels and camana bay

Investment approach

Having chosen the Cayman Islands as the location for his global headquarters, Mr. Dart invests in businesses and initiatives that stimulate economic growth in the jurisdiction. Dart’s real estate investments create not only beautiful public spaces and amenities, they also create jobs; Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa provided 800 jobs at the peak of its construction period, and the hotel now employs 360 staff members.

“Our decision to build a school at Camana Bay is the perfect example of our investment approach,” says Mr. VanDevelde. “Considered purely through a financial lens, the concept would never have received a green light. However, as an investment in education and as the foundation for the new community we wanted to build at Camana Bay, a school fit our purpose. Our partnership with International Schools Service has proven to be an outstanding success as the school population has almost tripled in the past decade. We are currently in the process of designing a major expansion for the campus, adding a new high school and a dedicated early education facility which we hope will continue to raise the bar for educational excellence in the Cayman Islands.”

Building for the future

It is not always common for developers to take such a long-term view on its real estate investments — and even within the Dart portfolio, Camana Bay is an exception. Dart's other real estate investment decisions are typically more straightforward, based on an analysis of risk and the projected return.

“At Camana Bay, we are building for the future,” says Mr. VanDevelde. “We want to put in place facilities and infrastructure to ensure Cayman remains a top jurisdiction for international business and continues to attract top talent, whether homegrown or from overseas.”

Dart’s willingness to upgrade the roads infrastructure between Camana Bay and West Bay is another example of investing in the country for a shared, sustainable future. The roads project is a result of the NRA Agreement, an economic stimulus package created by Dart and the Cayman Islands Government, in which Dart agreed to fund the costs of developing the road network in exchange for certain development incentives designed to encourage Dart to invest $400 million over the next 20 years. The two new underpasses through Camana Bay that will provide future sea-to-sound connectivity further illustrate Dart's long-term approach to planning.

camana bay pre construction site 2005 grand cayman

Dart values

As an employer, Dart is equally committed to investing in people. With businesses in seven different industries, Dart is able to offer a wide variety of career paths and is one of the largest private-sector employers in the Cayman Islands. Company culture is shaped by a set of values defined by Ken Dart that places an emphasis on innovation, honesty and integrity, teamwork and respect for the individual, meritocracy, dedication and industriousness. The company holds profitability at the core of sustainable businesses, but expects the pursuit of profit to be in a manner aligned with the other Dart values.

“Our people are our most valuable asset,” says Mr. VanDevelde. “We understand the importance of nurturing talent and creating a work environment that prioritises the well-being of its employees, offers learning and development opportunities and provides for career progression. We also take pride in the number of bright young Caymanians who choose to join our organisation every year; advancing their professional development is an investment in the country’s future.”

Giving back

This philosophy of developing young minds aligns with Dart’s philanthropic support of education in the community. With a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects, Dart funds a number of initiatives aimed at promoting academic excellence including Minds Inspired, a scholarship programme for both high school and university students. In addition, Minds Inspired supports STEM-related events in the local community and offers summer work experience placements for students every year.

While there are no stipulations for Minds Inspired scholars to work at Dart following graduation, it is how many choose to start their professional careers. “The programme gives a boost to both students and employers,” explains Mr. VanDevelde. “There is no better way to prepare for the future than investing in our youth.”