The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) has sunk more than $3 million in grants into small and micro businesses in Freeport in an effort to support them through the negative effects of both Hurricane Dorian and the COVID-19 pandemic, GBPA Senior Manager for Business Development Derek Newbold said on Friday, adding that more support is on the way given the continuity of the global pandemic.
According to Newbold, the RISE (restoring industries and sustaining employment) program, which was launched in December 2019 to respond to the needs of small businesses after Hurricane Dorian, provided 256 grants of up to $10,000, injecting $2.4 million into the community.
RISE is a partnership between Mercy Corps and GBPA with donor support from the American Red Cross and Bacardi Limited.
Newbold said following the hurricane – which occurred one year ago tomorrow – the need to assist small businesses was obvious.
“In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, we dispatched a number of teams into the city of Freeport to conduct assessments specifically in the business community, to see what condition they were in and what we found was actually startling,” he said.
“Most of the businesses, especially the small and medium-sized enterprises, simply didn’t have insurance and they suffered some devastating impacts as a result of Dorian. We spent a little time mulling over how best to support these small businesses in general and the overwhelming need was access to capital. We decided to put together a grant program to meet that specific need and the first grant program that we compiled was a program called RISE.”
Newbold said the RISE grants helped to sustain about 1,000 jobs on Grand Bahama.
Because those grants did not reach businesses too small to qualify, Newbold said, the GBPA and Small Business Development Centre (SBDC) then launched a grant program for smaller businesses in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, providing $450,000 to 104 awardees.
He said it was important for the GBPA to keep these kinds of businesses afloat.
“When you think about employment within any economy, small businesses are the backbone of an economy when it comes to employment, when it comes to capital injection within that economy,” Newbold said.
“The bigger businesses of course are very beneficial…they’re impactful. But in terms of sustainability, those small businesses are extremely important. We felt it was important for us to prop them up and provide some level of support to sustain them in this period.”
Newbold said the GBPA has provided assistance for 170 businesses, providing more than $500,000. He explained that more grant programs are in the pipeline.
“It’s not just the corporate community stepping up and trying to support wherever they can, I think it’s important for us as Bahamians who are in a better position than some of our colleagues to lend support,” he said.
“Everyone right now who may have been displaced, who may have been impacted negatively in terms of unemployment…if you’re able to support one family, that’s a start.
“One of the things that I think the corporate community can do is, where you find opportunities to support a small business or direct opportunities towards a small business, use a small business to keep them open, to sustain them.”