East Grand Bahama business owners consider 'strength in numbers' to improve opportunities
By Mercynth Ferguson
Mar 3, 2016 - 10:10:01 AM
GB Chamber of Commerce leaders met with East Grand Bahama's business community last Thursday to discuss the advantages of having the GB Chamber as a unified voice to advocate on key issues affecting businesses on the island. (Photo: Keen i Media Ltd.)
Freeport, Grand Bahama - There is strength in numbers - this was the crux of the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce's (GBCC) message to business owners and prospective entrepreneurs in East Grand Bahama during a meeting in High Rock last Thursday.
GBCC leaders met with the eastern district's business community to discuss the advantages of having an amplified and unified voice to advocate on key issues affecting business on the island, an advantage the representatives cited among the main benefits of joining the GBCC.
Boasting a membership of over 200 local businesses, the GBCC has started the year with an intense focus on broadening its membership in areas outside of Freeport. This interest spurred the recent meeting in East Grand Bahama and a similar meeting a week prior in West Grand Bahama. The GBCC board of directors is striving to correct the misconception that the Chamber is targeted toward businesses in the Port area, and demonstrate how the organisation can also be of service to companies outside of the city of Freeport.
"One of the things we emphasised is that we are the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, not just a chamber for Freeport," GBCC Membership Committee Co-Chairman Lawrence Palmer said of the East Grand Bahama meeting. "We are focused on covering the island from the west end to the east end."
Mr Palmer explained that this focus on uniting the business community across the island would become increasingly important as negotiations of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement's expiring tax exemptions come to a close.
"We believe that with the current review of the Hawksbill Creek Agreement, there are going to be some significant changes in the economic climate of Freeport," Mr Palmer said. "Also, with the advent of new legislation such as national health insurance and VAT, we're really seeing a change in the landscape of doing business. As such, the Chamber is a powerful vehicle to voice the concerns of the business community."
In the past, the GBCC has represented the island's business owners in discussions with government regarding VAT and the Customs Management Act, and has, more recently, engaged the government in talks concerning the impact of a national health insurance plan on the community.
Mr Palmer suggested that encouraging greater involvement from businesses in west and east Grand Bahama would assist the GBCC in forming more informed opinions on proposed policies, particularly on how such policies would affect companies within and outside of the Port area.
"The message is simply, 'add your voice to that of the Chamber and help the Chamber to grow stronger,' because an economically stronger Grand Bahama is in the best interest of us all," Mr Palmer said.
For GBCC executives, the meetings in west and east Grand Bahama have been an encouraging start to forging a greater bond between business representatives across the island. The GBCC has committed to returning to the districts on a more frequent basis to encourage Chamber membership and inform the respective communities of upcoming events/seminars and other GBCC updates.
The GBCC has also expressed an interest in learning of the challenges businesses in outlying areas face and determining how to best assist. During a question and answer segment of Thursday's meeting, guests indicated the need for improved infrastructure in the east and voiced grievances about the business licence application process.
The business owners also expressed a desire to learn more about improving their business practices. In that regard, Mr Palmer noted, the GBCC has launched a help desk service for small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs to get assistance with developing business proposals, proper financial planning, and improving business strategies.
For more than 35 years, the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce has existed to sustain, promote and support business development in an effort to encourage growth and expansion in the Grand Bahama economy and within a healthy and clean community environment. It is a voluntary organisation of individuals and businesses that band together to advance the commercial, financial, industrial, civic, interests of the local business community.
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