Nineteen participants from two initiatives supported by the government – MSME Business Disaster Recovery Programme and Business Technology Upgrade Initiative – received financial donations on Wednesday, December 18, to assist with the rebuilding of small businesses in Grand Bahama affected by the passing of Hurricane Dorian.
Launched under the Small Business Development Centre (SBDC), MSME Business Disaster Recovery participants received $5,000 and participants of Business Technology Upgrade Initiative received $2,500. The financial presentation was held at the Office of the Prime Minister, where the Minister of State for Grand Bahama, Senator J. Kwasi Thompson explained that the donation was to ensure the island’s economy would be reestablished.
Thompson stressed that small businesses are an important economic sector on the island and that more persons should take advantage of the initial programmes created to improve entrepreneurship.
“The Small Business Development Centre really was tasked by the prime minister (Dr. Hubert Minnis), prior to the storm, to develop businesses in Grand Bahama and throughout The Bahamas. SBDC was provided with funding to be able to help new businesses and to also help existing businesses. SBDC was doing a good job prior to the storm in terms of assisting businesses, then came Dorian and that has caused all of us to shift priorities.
“The prime minister mandated the Small Business Development Centre shift its focus to assist those small businesses which have been affected due to the storm and $10 million has been set aside to help those businesses in Grand Bahama and those businesses in Abaco to recover,” Thompson added.
He noted that SBDC also has a grant where business owners do not have to repay the funds. “However, they have to give an account of the funds. Additionally, there is a combination – a grant and a loan – for the largest amount a government guaranteed loan … SBDC offers several options, and I believe those of you who are here today, have chosen that option or have been awarded that option where you will be given a grant.
“So, I want to congratulate you for taking that step to apply first of all, because you can’t say that you haven’t gotten if you don’t take that initial step to apply. You have taken that step to apply and so, you are reaping that benefit of applying.”
He continued, “We know that all of you have been affected by the storm and most business owners, who are here are from the Downtown area. So, today I am extremely pleased to see that we are helping those businesses particularly in the Downtown area.
“We want that Downtown area to come back fully, and the only way we can get that Downtown area to come back fully is if we could assist the businesses and some of you have had businesses for years in the Downtown area. You have gone through the good times, the bad times, gone back through the good times and after more than one hurricane, you have been here and you have survived.
“I have said this on many occasions, but this is even more so true today, every time I look at people in Grand Bahama in general, but particularly business owners who have been affected by the storm made a commitment that in spite of the storm, they took everything that Dorian could give to them and they looked Dorian and everyone else in the face and say ‘I am still standing, I am still here and I am not going anywhere.’”
Thompson noted that Grand Bahama is going to be a Technology Hub. “Dorian is not going to stop that from happening. So, some of you are going to be getting the Technology Grant, because you have applied and said that you want to upgrade yourself through the use of technology, and you want to be able to provide an even better service to the public through the use of technology. So, I want to congratulate each of you.”
Cherise Smith spoke on behalf of SBDC Director for the Northern Bahamas, Yvette O’Conno and shared encouraging words with recipients.
“In light of the hurricane, the government started the Business Disaster Recovery Programme to assist businesses that were affected by the storm resume operations within 30 days.
“Today, businesses that applied for the $5,000 Grant to assist with replacing equipment, inventory, maybe small infrastructure was awarded the grant through the Small Business Development Centre Programme. We congratulate you and wish you the best.”
D and P Landscaping and Maintenance Proprietor, Daniel Williams said, “Today, I am thankful to be a recipient of this technology fund, which is a grant to help reestablish and restore my business that was damage during the hurricane.
“I feel like it is going to take small businesses to fuel the economy of Freeport, which is the backbone of any economy. And so, as we seek to get back to a sense of normalcy, this will go a long way in assisting us to do that whereby we will be able to employ persons who will be making direct contribution to the economy. I am very thankful for that.”
D’s Shoe Repair owner Rudolph Arthur said, “I have been in business since 1989 and receiving this cheque is very helpful and very important to assist us, because we suffered greatly due to Dorian. I lost all of my equipment, a lot of my stock and receiving this grant today will go a long way in helping get back on my feet.
“This donation shows me that the government is interested in us, and they want to, really, see us bounce back and get the island moving again. Since the storm, everything has become dormant and so getting the island back as it was before, I think, shows how the government side is interested in getting us back on our feet again.”