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GBPA Assessing Micro Enterprise Development and Business Incubation for Freeport

Business incubation has become a growing trend in Caribbean countries over the past 10 - 15 years. Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago are a few neighboring jurisdictions that have recently established business incubators as launch pads for start-up of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME).

The programme acts as a catalyst for growth and offers much needed support, business expertise and access to funding for businesses with strong growth potential during its most critical phase.

The World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank statistics show that incubators increase the survival rate of start-up businesses from 35 per cent to as high as 87 per cent. And, according to President of The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA), Ian Rolle, the concept is being eyed as a short term initiative to assist Freeport's small business sector. "Creating an environment conducive to growth and sustainability for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME), is vital to the health of our economy," said Rolle. "Simplifying the pathway to business ownership for Bahamians is important, but we are equally concerned about the continued success and growth of these businesses, "stated Rolle.

"Our efforts to maximise growth potential for the MSME sector remains ongoing, but as with all other countries in the region, access to capital continues to be the greatest challenge and MSMEs need greater support. Our Invest Grand Bahama Small Business Bureau (IGBSBB) has made significant progress with research and partnerships that will prove beneficial to local businesses." Rolle continued, adding that GBPA is committed to finding an innovative approach to supporting this sector.

Senior Manager of Business Development for GBPA, Derek Newbold, noted that since 2009 GBPA has dedicated significant resources and focus to domestic investment programmes via the IGBSBB, formerly The Enterprising Centre (TEC).

"Through longstanding relationships with the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) and others, GBPA has been able to provide Freeport's MSMEs with valuable training programmes, networking and grant funding opportunities, but more is needed" cited Newbold.

"The IGBSBB has made noteworthy progress with collaboration and implementation plans for a Microenterprise Development and Business Incubation initiative, which has been ongoing for quite some time," he explained.

Newbold added that, in addition to regional consultation with a number of established business incubators on microenterprise development, the IGBSBB has already commenced discussions with local banks to offer greater assistance to small businesses.

"Business and financial support are core components for successful business incubation and microenterprise development; in fact, it is critical to their survival and growth. This discussion has been initiated and hopefully as a result, we will see a review of existing programs or perhaps the creation of new services that will better assist the MSME sector," Newbold added.

"Access to funding remains a major challenge facing small businesses and we are committed to arresting and changing this dynamic moving forward, "Newbold continued.

ABOUT GBPA


The Hawksbill Creek Agreement (HCA) gave GBPA responsibility for the development, administration and management, and provision of services within an area called the 'Port Area' (230 sq. miles). GBPA was mandated by this Agreement to build a deep water harbour, an industrial community and required infrastructure for the City.

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PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE


GBPA has achieved an astonishing amount since its inception in 1955.  When first created it was a Grand Bahamian business conglomerate charged not only with land and commercial development but also with all the regulatory and administrative functions of the Freeport/Lucaya.

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THE WAY FORWARD


Firstly, I wish to thank Joan Albury and the Counsellors for this platform enabling us to share with the Grand Bahama community, the outlook for our island! 2015 marks the 60th year of the birth of Freeport and the Hawksbill Creek Agreement; 60 years of a partnership between The Government of The Bahamas and The Grand Bahama Port Authority. I'm here to raise hopes for 2015 and to lay a few popular myths to rest - For those who don't know me, I am Sarah St George.

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