G.B Residents Urged to Take Advantage of the Opportunities

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rand Bahama business people heard on Thursday, February 21, that Grand Bahama has a bright economic future with the current and future projects. This message was delivered by the keynote speaker, Senator the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

Grand Bahama’s economic season is changing, said Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson, on Thursday, February 21 at the official opening of the Grand Bahama Business Outlook. The 21st annual Grand Bahama Business Outlook 2019 is being held under the theme, “Connecting Resources, Maximizing Opportunities, Transforming Grand Bahama” at the Grand Lucayan Convention Centre. The sentiments expressed by the Minister received a rousing round of applause from the room filled with business people and students.  Also in attendance were President of the Senate, the Hon. Katherine Forbes-Smith; Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Utilities, Iram Lewis; Senator the Hon. Jasmine Darius as well as senior government officials and executives from the Grand Bahama Port Authority. “This is a critical time for us in Grand Bahama. I dare say, it is one of the most important times in our generation.”

Quoting Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” he continued, “For years, we have been in a very economically challenging season. It is my considered view that Grand Bahama’s economic season is changing. Therefore, I am prepared to say without reservation, the future outlook for Grand Bahama is bright.” A report from the Grand Bahama Port Authority states there has been an increase in approved and issued licenses, as well as the report from Inland Revenue of 388 new licenses in East and West Grand Bahama, the island is experiencing steady growth. With a steady reduction in unemployment and an increase in stop-over visitors in tourism, the island is moving in the right direction but there is still much more to be done. Giving an overview of what is taking place or about to take place on the island, Minister Thompson touched on the sale of the Grand Lucayan as well as the West End Development. The recently announced Carnival Cruise Port was mentioned, and he advised residents to prepare themselves and seize the opportunity as it is expected that 12,000 passengers will visit the island daily, compared to the 2-3,000 that visit twice weekly now.

“So between now, and 2020, we have a lot of work to do. Through this project we have an opportunity to reintroduce Grand Bahama to the world as a premier cruise and tourist destination.“ Grand Bahamians, now is the time to think about restaurants, Junkanoo shacks, retail stores, food and beverage logistics, entertainment, native shows, recreational activities. Carnival will not do this, we must! “The port will also serve as a transportation hub for tours, taxis and rental cars. This will mean more boat tours, fishing tours, island tours, sports tours like golf and tennis, West End historical tours and East End eco-tours. Carnival will not do this, we must!

“The heavy lifting must be done by Grand Bahamians.” Announcing a new development, Minister Thompson said the Government has approved in principle the Western Atlantic University School of Medicine to be located in Freeport. Made up of former Ross University professionals, the newly-formed medical school is now continuing their approval processes and hopes to welcome students in September 2019.  It is expected that the first phase of a $10 million building by the developers will begin and the project will provide 200 jobs.

As Grand Bahama continues to be dubbed the tech hub of the region, two companies GIBC and i-tel BPO, are currently operating on island. “Other companies recently approved under the Commercial Enterprise Act on Grand Bahama include: G.B. Biopharma, a company engaged in biomedical services; DevDigital Bahamas Limited, a Bahamian joint venture web development company; Skyward Techno is another company going through the approval process, a computer software company which developed highly advanced business software solutions. Over the next five years, Skyward Techno has revealed plans to create 100 full time jobs and 180 part time jobs with a budget of $2 million. Agriculture Enterprises Development Limited, a Bahamian joint venture farming company that will engage in a pilot fruit and nut farm producing coconut, castor and palm oil for the local market and for export; and another Bahamian joint venture company, Bahamas Golden Harvest Limited, was approved to establish a chicken hatchery, produce eggs, chicken feed, cash crops and citrus on East End Grand Bahama.

“We will make our immigration policy more attractive for Tech investment. We are now finalizing draft legislation to create a special visa, known as the BH-1B Visa in keeping with recommendations made by the Grand Bahama Technology Steering Committee. This would be particularly for companies seeking to relocate their development teams to the Bahamas to retain specialized talent.  The committee proposes that through the imminent population growth as a result of this program Grand Bahama will see significant economic impact in the areas of housing, national insurance, food, entertainment, education, healthcare and government taxes among other industries.”Minister Thompson also addressed free education at BTVI, UB which is expected to begin this fall, and courses currently being carried out at the YMCA.

Small businesses, he said, are getting a major boost with the assistance from the Ministry of Grand Bahama’s Micro & Small Business Grant program where to date, some 197 participants have received the training and 87 have received grants for their businesses resulting in a total of $371,000. He said, “Further, Grand Bahama’s Small Business Development Center was launched in January. In his official address, the Deputy Prime Minister noted that The SBDC is the centre stone of the Government’s campaign to stimulate Bahamian ownership, to invest in entrepreneurs and to provide micro, small and medium sized businesses the incentives and assistance needed to survive and thrive.  This is a core part of our recipe to grow the economy in Grand Bahama and thereby create jobs and wealth.  The SBDC takes a holistic approach that considers the full range of needs that entrepreneurs have: being training, financing and mentorship.  The Government has leveraged some $5 million in order to secure up to $9 million worth of financing for small businesses across the country. We have done this largely thanks to an unprecedented partnership with domestic commercial banks, the Bahamas Development Bank, and The Bahamas Entrepreneurial Venture Fund (BEVF).  Through the SDBC, Bahamian entrepreneurs will have access to: Government Guaranteed Loans; Business Grants; and Equity Financing.  And a large portion of the grants will be earmarked specifically for youth up to the age of 40 from the Family Islands.

“This is just another of several initiatives aimed at empowering Bahamians.  Grand Bahama, I urge you to take advantage of these opportunity.

Following morning presentations, Senator the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson, Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister; Zhivargo Laing, Chief Negotiator for the Bahamas Accession to the World Trade Organization; and Gregory LaRoda, president of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, interacted with attendees of the 21 annual Grand Bahama Business Outlook 2019. The event was held on Thursday, February 21, 2019 at the Grand Lucayan Resort. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

Many business people in Grand Bahama attended the 21st annual Grand Bahama Business Outlook 2019 at the Grand Lucayan. The event, hosted by The Counsellors Limited, was held under the theme, “Connecting Resources, Maximizing Opportunities, Transforming Grand Bahama.” The keynote speaker was Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Grand Bahama, Senator the Hon. J. Kwasi Thompson (fourth from right). Next to Minister Thompson is Parliamentary Secretary, Iram Lewis and shown at the far right is Senate President, the Hon. Katherine Forbes-Smith. (BIS Photo/Andrew Miller)

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