Eleuthera Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Sands is urging Eleuthera residents to ensure they are prepared for whatever business opportunities may soon present themselves as development on the multimillion-dollar Disney project at Lighthouse Point is expected to kick into high gear later this year.
Sands said at present, there is little widespread economic impact from the project, but he is hopeful that will change as the project progresses.
“Since the construction hasn’t started in earnest yet, its impact is still largely unknown. We understand that the team working on the geotechnical investigation will be here for four months, so it is likely that they are staying in local accommodations, eating at local restaurants and shopping at local stores,” he told Guardian Business.
“So, there are businesses in the south that are benefitting. I am hopeful that once final approval has been received the full impact of the project will be felt more widely.”
Last month, Disney announced that it selected local firm ENCO International to carry out its geotechnical investigations at Lighthouse Point.
The team consists primarily of Bahamians from New Providence, whom Sands said has also contracted local Eleuthera residents to carry out some of the work.
He said he’s hopeful to see more local Eleuthera residents engaged on the project.
“These are early days. The geotechnical investigation team is made up of Bahamians out of Nassau and they have subcontracted locals to work on the project. To my knowledge that is all the work being done at the site, so yes, so far it seems like Bahamians are getting opportunities. I hope that this trend will continue once construction begins in earnest. In December of last year, our members and the wider community were invited by Disney to participate in discussions regarding the construction phase of the project. We are advised that roughly 30 local businesses attended,” he said.
“I think this invitation signaled Disney’s interest in engaging local talent and our local contractors’ interest in working on the project and we are hopeful that locals will be awarded contracts on the project. This creates a new benchmark for other developers and projects.
“We want to also encourage local businesses to ready themselves to take advantage of the opportunities we hope will come. Ensure that your businesses are licensed and you are able to provide any further documentation necessary to enter a contract. I find that a lot of extremely talented and knowledgeable persons on the island want to do business but they are just not properly prepared.”
At the same time, Sands called for more governmental support for Eleuthera businesses to bolster their readiness to participate in the project.
“Additionally, we also encourage the Bahamas government to consider the granting of concessions and incentives similar to those offered in the Economic Empowerment Act in support of all local businesses that are attempting to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.
“We need to remember that South Eleuthera is made up of small communities that have been depressed for multiple generations. It’s going to take a lot for us to get this engine going again.”
Last month Disney revealed that its environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Lighthouse Point project is nearing completion.