Chamber wants three to five years of concessions for Abaco

Abaco continues to suffer a housing shortage that, coupled with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and global supply chain problems, is impeding the island’s recovery and return to normalcy two years after Hurricane Dorian, prompting the Abaco Chamber of Commerce to call for three to five years of concessions.

Abaco Chamber of Commerce President Ken Hutton made the appeal for an extended special economic recovery zone (SERZ) order yesterday while speaking at the Abaco Business Outlook, explaining that the global supply chain problem means materials for rebuilding are not arriving on the island as quickly as they used to.

He also pointed to inflation on the island, however, one of the most vexing issues is the shortage of labor due in large part to the lack of rental housing on the island.

“Much of the housing is still in a state of disrepair or destroyed,” Hutton said.

“It’s affecting businesses because they can’t hire new people, there’s nowhere for people to live. It’s affecting schools because there’s nowhere for teachers to live.”

He said extending the SERZ is especially important for second home owners who have not been able to come to the island because of the pandemic.

“It’s been difficult for them to come back and rebuild,” said Hutton.

Director of Marketing and Sales for Baker’s Bay Geoffrey Jones, who was a speaker at the Abaco Business Outlook, said labor and housing remain a challenge for the development, though it has made steady progress. According to Jones, Baker’s Bay is housing 400 workers and moving 600 to 1,000 workers to Great Guana Cay daily to carry out work on the property. Jones said this is the highest number of workers the resort has ever accommodated.

Hutton added that Abaco’s capital Marsh Harbor desperately needs its sea port to return to proper working order, lamenting that “very little has been done in that regard”.

He said the Abaco Chamber presented a proposal to the government for a public-private partnership model for the reconstruction of the port just before the election was called.

“Hopefully the new government will take a look at it,” said Hutton.

He said a proposal for the The Mudd has also been drafted that would transform the former shantytown into a green space for Marsh Harbour, that would be developed through donations and include a memorial site for those who died during Hurricane Dorian, an amphitheater and small business incubation center.

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Chester Robards

Chester Robards rejoined The Nassau Guardian in November 2017 as a senior business reporter. He has covered myriad topics and events for The Nassau Guardian. Education: Florida International University, BS in Journalism

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