Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson said yesterday the future of Downtown Freeport looks bright as the government makes progress on a number of redevelopment initiatives, including the Grand Bahama Shipyard and the Grand Bahama International Airport (GBIA).
Regarding the redevelopment of the GBIA, Thompson said the process remains on track for a request for proposals (RFP) to be issued in the coming weeks.
“The government has been working closely with the consultants. The consultants are now in the process of completing the RFP,” he said before yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.
“The consultants have had their first meeting with potential partners and potential investors in the airport. I’m advised that meeting went well and they are close to releasing the RFP to the public. So we are on track with respect to the plans for the airport.”
Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced last month that Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International agreed to invest $350 million in the Grand Bahama Shipyard.
Thompson said the development of the shipyard is a very big symbol of investor confidence and a sign that things are being revitalized in Grand Bahama.
“The government is presently in discussions with the Grand Bahama Shipyard in coming together on an agreement on how that development is going to move forward, but it really has tremendous potential, not just in terms of employment numbers, but to have a tremendous economic affect on the island,” he said.
“There are many people who rent to the shipyard, many people who benefit from the shipyard purchasing items from them, so if the expansion moves forward it only will add to that economic activity that’s going on in Grand Bahama.”
Thompson pointed to AML Food’s recent announcement that it intends to rebuild its Solomon’s food store in the old Winn Dixie location on York Street with a $3.5 million investment, as another sign the island’s economy is on the rebound.
“We are very hopeful and I think it’s good news. The future for Downtown Freeport looks very bright,” he said.
He continued, “The Western Atlantic medical school has progressed very nicely, it is under construction right now. They anticipate completing the first phase by December, so that they can welcome their students by January. So all of that is extremely good news for Grand Bahama.”
Grand Bahama’s economy has continued to struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian followed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thompson said these projects as well as the government’s focused attention on renovating the second city is paramount.
“The government has been focused on revitalizing and renovating its buildings in that area. You would have seen the multimillion-dollar renovation of the court house, you would have seen the renovations taking place now with the post office, the Ministry of Agriculture building has also undergone renovations and new vendor spots,” he said.