Bahamian Contractors Association (BCA) President Leonard Sands said while the industry is very excited by the recent construction jobs announcements on Grand Bahama associated with the Grand Lucayan sale and new Carnival Cruise Line port, he will wait to see if the developers live up to their words to hire mostly Bahamian laborers.
Electra America Hospitality Group, which agreed to purchase the Grand Lucayan from the government for $100 million, has also agreed to create 1,000 jobs during the $300 million renovation and construction phase of the project; while Carnival Cruise Line, which intends to immediately begin construction on its new $200 million cruise port in East Grand Bahama, has vowed to create hundreds more jobs.
“Obviously, we are very excited about it, noting that some information about it is interesting, the $100 million sale price, the owner’s indication that they want to spend $300 million in renovations on the property” Sands told Guardian Business yesterday. “I guess our only question is, is that $300 million to open the property or $300 million renovating the property over a particular period of time?
“The number of construction workers during the renovation stage is really exciting, but we always have a caveat. These developers always say they will hire 1,000 workers and then somewhere along the line that changes. So at this point in time, we are excited about that, we hope that it happens, and we hope that this developer maintains that intention to hire 1,000 Bahamians during the renovation period.”
Electra Hospitality Group has pledged to maintain an 80 percent Bahamian workforce during construction and renovation of the 700-room Grand Lucayan resort. It also plans to construct luxury villas.
Sands said all too often foreign developers say one thing at the signing of an agreement, only to come back later with complaints that the Bahamian labor force cannot support its demand for workers.
“The Bahamian Contractors Association puts out a challenge to this particular developer, to advertise every single position that they have in construction and the BCA will supply them with every single position that they need to fill. That’s the challenge that I put out now as the president of the BCA,” Sands said.
“We believe that there are the skills available, there is the capacity. Grand Bahama hasn’t been doing anything for the last 10-plus years, clearly there are a lot of unemployed persons who have the skills. The challenge we have is that developers sometimes need a requirement on paper, but when you go to the job site their guys don’t have any skill set different from local artisans. They say on paper they need this, this or this, but when we look at what they (the foreigners) are actually doing its regular masonry work that our guys have been doing for fifty years.
“They’ll say you need this level of carpentry skills, but when we get there they’re hanging doors, and our guys have been hanging doors for fifty years. So, we believe that if Bahamians are given a fair opportunity to get employed on this project, we have the labor force to supply that demand in Grand Bahama. It may mean that persons move from Nassau or neighboring Eleuthera, but they will be Bahamian.”
Sands said overall there is an apparent boom in the construction sector, however, he stopped short of attributing all of the activity to the efforts of the Davis administration.
“From my vantage point, I think it’s a a combination of two things. The economy is picking up, and I also think that COVID is ending and so projects that couldn’t move forward because of the pandemic are now moving forward,” he said.
“That’s not to say this new administration isn’t going out there and finding new projects and investments, but if you look at how quickly it has happened, I think that some of these were already in the pipeline.”
The construction industry has been a pivotal peg in the rebound of the country’s economy since 2021, buoyed by post-Dorian rebuilding, the construction of a new US embassy and a new cruise port at Nassau Harbour, and several small and medium-scale foreign direct investments.