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Bahamians considering move back home weigh options

Antoine Johnson spent most of his summers growing up in Pinewood Gardens.

He would play marbles and stickball in the streets with his neighbors and would ride his bike to his heart’s content.

In the other months Johnson attended Jordan Prince William High School.  He was always curious about how things in the world worked.

These days Johnson is an oral surgeon practicing in Washington D.C., as well as a clinical associate at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

He’s also a Howard graduate and former high school teacher, though he admits it was never his intention to live and work in the U.S.

Johnson, a permanent resident, is among the thousands of Bahamians who reside in the U.S.

“I had plans on coming back home to practice and even to this point I still have aspirations and plans on doing that to some extent,” he said in a recent telephone interview.

“That was always my plan.”

Along his journey though, Johnson got married and had a son.

When asked if money would play a role in his return to the country Johnson said: “My eyes would be focused on fulfilling a need versus fulfilling my personal financial or economic gain.

“I know there is a shortage of oral surgeons practicing in The Bahamas.  A goal would be to help lighten that load versus having some kind of economic gain.”

There are two oral surgeons in the country today, noted a local surgeon.

There were 6,664 Bahamians granted permanent residency in the United States from 2003 to 2012, according to data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Immigration Statistics Yearbook of Immigration Statistics, 2012.

A littler over 5,000 Bahamians were naturalized in that same period.

Fred Perpall, the CEO of a $1 billion U.S. company, has urged the government to establish a database of Bahamians abroad and their specific skills through its consulate offices and foreign agencies.

Perpall, CEO of Dallas-based The Beck Group, said that such a database could be the first point of reference when the government is in need of consultants.

“I have a lot of close friends who have decided to return to The Bahamas but I have some good friends working abroad,” Perpall said recently.

“Even if it’s not your intention to move back home, people are always thinking, how do I take all the things I am learning and apply them at home?  I think we are putting the onus on those abroad to bring their skills home.”

Raidesha Francis, a CEO of her own business, has already planned to do just that.

Francis, who was born in The Bahamas, has spent the better portion of her life in the U.S.

“I spent a lot of time going back and forth,” she said, noting that she went to Carlton E. Francis Primary School, Dandy Lions Pre and Primary School and St. John’s College.

“For me, when it comes to business at home, sometimes people are a bit too relaxed and that bothers me,” she said.

“There is no sense of urgency when it comes to important matters and so that’s frustrating to me as a business owner.  So I always said if I ever were to come home or consider a business opportunity, I would have to own my own business and have my own place.  I couldn’t work for anyone.”

Francis is the CEO of Florida-based The Culinary Management Company, which provides professional resources for culinary businesses.

She’s also offering her services to interested Bahamians, something she said she felt compelled to do.

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