Despite delays due to Hurricane Dorian, last year, and now COVID-19, developers of major investment projects for Grand Bahama remain committed, according to the government.
Minister of State for Grand Bahama in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator J. Kwasi Thompson, in a recent address to the nation, spoke specifically to the Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited (RCCL) and ITM Group joint venture, which is conducting business jointly as Holistica.
“This was started in March of this year, just before COVID. Holistica signed a Heads of Agreement and an Agreement for Sale for the Grand Lucayan, with the government for a massive development, which was spanning two properties.
“Holistica remains committed to the project although it will be delayed due to COVID and Hurricane Dorian,” said Thompson.
He added that currently all parties are reviewing their post COVID-19 development plans and hope to fully turn over the hotel property before the end of this year.
‘They (Holistica) have put forward some amendments to the timelines and those amendments will require us to take a closer look. That is presently what is being done now. As we have indicated, our hope is to complete the full turnover to them by the end of this year, but we are still going ahead continuing those talks with them, in terms of assessing their post-COVID plans,” Thompson disclosed.
With respect to the Carnival Project development in East Grand Bahama, Thompson said that also is still very much in the plans.
“In February 2019, Carnival announced its plans for the construction of the massive port in East Grand Bahama and, proudly noted that once it was completed, Grand Bahama would be the home of Carnival’s largest cruise port to date. It is expected that the project will have almost 1,000 (substantive) jobs and will also have between 500 and 1,000 construction jobs. The Carnival project is in the permitting stage and we await Carnival’s post COVID plans.
"As for the West Atlantic Medical School that was recently approved, a Heads of Agreement was also signed.
“They are now moving ahead with the legal documents for their property. They have indicated their desire to break ground and start construction before the end of the year, or as soon as they are able to complete those legal documents. That is a significant project in terms of the construction and so, we hope that we will be able to move that project forward as well,” said the minister.
Additionally, he revealed that recently there have been discussions with a company called Clean Marine, which is presently operating a facility at the Shipyard.
“They are now looking at embarking on a new project, and so we are working with them as well. We expect that there will be some construction work as well as some expansion to their existing facility,” informed the Senator.
As Grand Bahama Island has been marketed as the Silicon Valley of this region by the Free National Movement (FNM) government, with Thompson leading the charge in this regard, he added that plans continue with a major technology conglomerate, to position this island to becoming a leader in the technology industry.
“With our tech hub plans, to this end the government in October executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Cisco Systems. The MoU, among other matters, stated that Cisco would assist the government to develop a strategy for an Innovation Center. We expect that that Innovation Center will be done in partnership with The University of The Bahamas, Northern Campus. Cisco will also facilitate the best practices and technical guidance in order to assist us in building an ICT (Information and Communication Technology) Hub. They will also help us with domestic and international marketing campaigns to best position Grand Bahama as an ICT hub.
“Through the existing networking academy Cisco will also assist in training 100 software developers, to build in country talent based on Cisco standards which are recognized around the globe. Those participants can access Cisco’s Talent Bridge platform in order to identify possible job openings at Cisco and with some of their partners. Cisco and the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) have already begun training for this program. We expect applications to be available in December. We will launch the training session in January.
“We continue to work with potential developers. There are people who are calling us every day, with respect to inquiries for developments in Grand Bahama. That is part of our role here in Freeport, to continue to see them through those processes and we will continue to do that,” said Thompson.