The GBPA wishes you a very happy new year!

Dear Friends,

Into this season of peace, joy and goodwill bursts the great hope and promise of the New Year. Christmas or Christ’s Mass inspires us to give thanks, to rejoice and to reflect like the Shepherds and Magi of the Nativity story. We treasure the good days and survive the challenging ones and we continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Southern Islands who are still suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Joaquin.

2015 brought both sunset and a new dawn to Freeport. As we celebrate the milestone 60th Anniversary of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, where do we go from here? The Grand Bahama Port Authority will be working assiduously with Government to reach consensus and closure regarding extension of certain expiring concessions; the goal being to create the most conducive and dynamic environment for other investment in Freeport, to provide meaningful jobs and increased opportunities for all in Grand Bahama.

I think we can all agree the history here has been one of a strong and successful partnership between the Port Authority and Government, which is still very much alive today. Together, hand-in-hand for 60 years the Port, the Government, stakeholders, licencees and residents have helped to create this city that all of us here call Home. It was never simple, and it’s not for the faint-hearted!  But as Abraham Lincoln once said; “You have to be able to take the bricks thrown at you and build them into a firm foundation”.

Freeport is still a young city and an Economist once said that business enterprises are like human beings; in their youth they absorb a large amount of capital. KPMG’s report said our infrastructure is worth some $11 billion in today’s money – a great deal by anyone’s standards. Freeport remains capital intensive and our Grand Bahama Economy has its growing pains. We are lucky to have had the heydays of the 60s and 70s, we are even more fortunate to have solid anchor equity investors like Hutchison, Buckeye, Pharmachem, Polymers, MSC, GB Shipyard, Emera, Svitzer, Gold Rock, Bahamas Rock, Bradford Marine and the businesses that are the building blocks of our community like H. Forbes Charter, Quality Services, Dolly Madison, Kelly’s, Solomon’s, Bahamian Brewery, Roosters, Jet Wash, Modalena, the Hayward Cooper businesses, Sawyers, Pineyard Steel to mention but a few – Also our legal fraternity, banks, accounting services, architects, doctors, media houses such as The Freeport News and ZNS, hotels and taxis, the police who protect us and the many churches who have prayed us through it all. But there is still much to be done and I am confident we shall get it done.

Last year saw an increase of some 42% in our tourism arrivals. Memories is abuzz since Sunwing chose Grand Bahama as their home. The Grand Lucayan Lighthouse Point has re-opened its doors. Club Fortuna is enlarging their room inventory, and the Balearia and Celebration have contributed significantly to increased visitor arrivals. Freeport boasts a new Western Air Terminal in full use at the airport. We are a magical destination!

We feel the whirring of our Industrial engine. Pharmachem Technology are poised to proceed with expansion plans, and a new Light Industrial Park created by Gold Rock in close collaboration with the GBPA is currently underway.  We also know that if the concessions are extended, there is some half-a-billion dollars of planned expansion inclusive of Polymers, Carnival Cruiselines, the Harbour, the Airport, Eco Oil, as well as the $250 million Phase V of Freeport Container terminal. We are a Port of trade ready for new Panamax!

Our local businesses have shown tremendous investment confidence in Freeport with expansion of their operations, and we thank Forbes Charter Services, Sawyers, Bahamas Zip, and Mr. Larry Albury of Freeport Jet Wash and the many others for their unwavering commitment to the success of Grand Bahama. We owe much to domestic investment and, to assist in this, the GBPA’s Small Business Bureau implemented a Customer Service Training Programme which was followed by a Small Business Seminar and new website last October; this in turn has sparked our new 2016 initiative targeting Medium Small and Micro Enterprises. In December, GBPA’s Downtown Revitalisation culminated with an all-night Christmas shopping promotion and laser light show.

GBPA has approached equity giants like the world’s largest asset manager BlackRock based in New York in unrelenting pursuit of development. We are happy to have been a sponsor of the recent Hubei China to The Bahamas Investment and Trade Mission to make it possible for our local businesses to position themselves for ever greater investment opportunities. Amongst wide-ranging promotion efforts overseas, GBPA advanced its medical tourism agenda at the Medical Manufacturing Conference in New York and for the second year running at the World Medical Tourism Congress in Orlando. We value our close working ties with the Chamber of Commerce and receipt of the President’s Award this year.

We’re also truly proud that Grand Bahama Development Company has successfully completed the Sir Jack Hayward Bridge which will soon be open for traffic and further connect residents with each other bringing new prospects of development, just as the Fishing Hole Causeway and Fire Station under Government contract will enhance and safeguard our future. We know that our recent roadworks on East Sunrise Highway were a temporary inconvenience for road users, but we are now pleased to have these two new roundabouts which enormously improve the traffic flow in heavily populated school zones.

GBPA also worked with gifted Grand Bahamian artist Sheldon Saint to transform a series of structural eyesores into Street Art and we continue to spread the ‘Keep Grand Bahama Clean’ philosophy in schools and in the community – our Environment is Nature’s capital investment and that must never be taken for granted. We have a state-of-the-art sewage plant and landfill for waste disposal and both energy conservation and clean energy are embedded in a new three year plan pairing cost efficiency and cost reduction with innovations in renewable bio-diesel and solar power, LED lights, and flywheel storage.

Christmas reminds us always to care for the most vulnerable in our community; the elderly, single parents, neglected children and the disabled. Edward and Lady Henrietta St George founded the Beacon School and Children’s Village comprising the Childrens Home, Columbus House for teenagers, Genesis Academy for troubled youngsters and Pace Centre for young mothers, and we try to follow in their footsteps. Last July, GBPA Volunteers helped to repair roofs, windows, bathrooms and repaint in all five (now six) GB Homes for the Aged and gave a lunch for all 60 elderly residents at Mary Ann’s. We’ve just finished renovating dilapidated buildings for the Columbus House young men & women with no homes or families of their own. As regulator, we’ve encouraged the Grand Bahama Power Company to create a special reduced power rate for residents in greatest need, as well as implementation of solar options and pay-as-you-go smart meters to aid with budgeted consumption. The Port Authority plans to spearhead more initiatives early in 2016.

GBPA responded to victims of Hurricane Joaquin in November through NEMA and private relief groups with funding and goods. At Christmas we shared 150 Christmas hams and turkeys among those in need identified with the help of care-givers and charitable organisations, Urban Renewal 2.0, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Sir Jack Hayward fostered our volunteer institutions and even tackled the social blight of unwanted pets running wild, establishing our GB Humane Society, thanks to whose concern and control fewer stray dogs roam Grand Bahama today than in most Caribbean islands.

Author Victor Hugo wrote; ‘He who opens a school door closes a prison’. Over the years, we have built many schools and in keeping with our long-standing practice, GBPA provides over 100 partial scholarships each year and in 2015 helped fund-raising efforts for a new wing commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Bishop Michael Eldon School. GBPA covers 150 children’s school fees annually and fulfilled a pledge of $3 million for the construction of the College of The Bahamas Freeport dormitories. We try to form strong and confident young citizens by supporting sports, team spirit and friendly competition. We assisted our local champions to travel to China for the World Championship Games and the IAAF World Relays in Nassau, also our junior champions to participate in the Carifta Games in St Kitts. We support the YMCA, gymnastics, GB Volleyball league, GB Bodybuilding, GB Amateur Softball & Baseball Association, local swimming teams, the Conchman Triathlon and local basketball tournaments. I’m now a proud patron of Mychal Thompson’s Foundation centred at Ivan Butler’s Eight Mile Rock High mentoring 51 young registrants and awarding prizes to Top Grade Point Average student-athletes. We want our youth to become the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and for three consecutive years GBPA has been awarded the title of Junior Achievement Company of the Year. The Sir Charles Hayward Library is an integral part of GBPA’s community reach, opening a medical student wing in partnership with the Rand this past year to enable Teaching Hospital Accreditation for the first time.

We continue to nurture our unique cultural heritage through sponsorship of Junkanoo, the GB Youth Choir, Grand Bahama pageants, the Arts – and last but not least, we have taken a significant step to memorialise our Grand Bahama History in the creation of Grand Bahama’s first Museum, a $250,000 joint GBPA/Devco project which will be a fun interactive experience for residents and visitors alike.

Exciting new plans are on the drawing-board for 2016 and in that spirit we hope everyone will embrace GBPA’s jazzy new ‘I love Freeport’ campaign, to raise awareness, to be catalysts for growth, to entice multitudes of new visitors and a myriad of new possibilities drawn by the simple message; we love where we live!

This is a time to be grateful; grateful to be living in such a wonderful community which we helped to build together. We have ALL put in our best. This season, I will personally be grateful to my father Edward St George, to Sir Jack Hayward and to Sir Albert Miller, for their work and their legacy. I’m also very grateful for the support shown to us at the Grand Bahama Port Authority by our employees, our licencees, our residents and our children. I thank each and every one for believing in the dream we all share.

We at the GBPA wish you a very Happy New Year filled with love, friends, family and may God bless you with good fortune and opportunity this year and for many more years to come. As we enjoy the Christmas lights through the twelve days to Epiphany, let us one and all make a New Year Resolution for a safe, healthy, wealthy, peaceful, and extensively 20-sweet-16!

Sarah St George

Share this post

Related Posts

Grand Bahama Port Authority Supports Dedication of the Evangeline Jervis Hurricane Shelter

Sarah St. George, Acting Chairman of the Grand Bahama Port Authority, delivers heartfelt remarks at the dedication of the Evangeline Jervis Hurricane Shelter. St. George ...
Read More →
Forum 2

Bahamian Leaders Rally for Blue Economy at the 2024 Forum For Impact

The 2024 Forum For Impact, held from May 22nd to May 24th on Grand Bahama Island, brought together global experts thought leaders to discuss the ...
Read More →

GBPA’s 2024 Business Expo: Tourism Edition Delivers!

The Grand Bahama Port Authority Limited’s (GBPA) Freeport Business Expo: Tourism Edition delivered unsurpassed value to over 400 attendees earlier this month. Held at the ...
Read More →