Sharell Lockhart

FN News Reporter

Former senator Michael Pintard recently spoke on the topic of 'Improving Grand Bahama's economy and social condition' at the Rotary Club of Freeport's weekly meeting at the Ruby Swiss Restaurant.

According to Pintard, The Bahamas (Grand Bahama more importantly) cannot control the state of the world economy or the adverse affect it has had on our country as well as the decisions made by policymakers after the vote has been cast.


However he revealed that Rotarians, the wider Bahamian community and other concerned persons do have a chance to influence some of the policy decisions if everyone speaks with one voice and acts in a consistent manner when it comes to addressing our concerns.

"If we speak collectively and act individually we may be able to influence a number of issues that affect our island's economy and social condition.

"I always found it remarkable since the worst recession next to the Great Depression, all of the key stakeholders in Grand Bahama have not yet sat down in one room to collectively address the issues facing this community.

"Maybe it is counterintuitive of me to believe this should have happened but from where I stand, I thought it would be absolutely necessary for central Government, the actual Port Authority leadership, the Chamber of Commerce and its key members along with those persons who have tremendous resources in this community and those companies with their headquarters overseas to hold a candid discussion.

"In this discussion they would all need to look at the challenges faced by Grand Bahama, the opportunities that exist and the strategies they would collectively need to employ in an effort to overcome those challenges and seize new opportunities."

Pintard noted if Grand Bahama is going to rebound, it is imperative for Grand Bahama's leadership and the aforementioned stakeholders to be creative and come up with innovative strategies to tell the story of Freeport and The Bahamas at large.

"The stakeholders must accomplish what most of the policymakers say is necessary, which is to tell the story of Grand Bahama in general and Freeport in particular.

"To tell the story we must plug into the networks throughout North America, Central and South America and Europe and make use of personalities that are friends of The Bahamas inclusive of media personalities.

"I think an important step has been made by both the leadership of the Grand Bahama Port Authority and some of the private companies who travel overseas in order to address various conferences and tell them the story of Grand Bahama.

"But equally and if not more important, would to be bringing those persons and personalities here with their equipment so they can see, touch and meet the various people that are making things happen in The Bahamas and most imperatively Freeport, Grand Bahama.

"These personalities and friends can then in turn broadcast the message of what we have to offer to the world," he said.

Further, the city of Freeport needs to be transformed said Pintard, as too many businesses have closed down, leaving a large number of abandoned shopping centers and storefronts strewn throughout the city.

"Imagine if we were to host a massive mural campaign in the downtown area where abandoned buildings left in a state of disrepair were utilized?

"Further, where we take those buildings that are beyond rehabilitation down and /or insist that the owners do so.

"Those building which can be rehabilitated should be painted with attractive murals in conjunction with the owners and in the event some other business is introduced into that facility one may then change what is painted on the outside.

"Picture for a moment a transformation of the look of Freeport through the use of art as has been done in downtown Miami, Florida.

"Numerous artists came in there and through a community project on a volunteer basis transformed the face of the downtown area.

"It is certainly doable here and the benefit of it is we have more than enough school children with artistic skills that would be more than interested in participating in such a project.

"Besides we had at the very least three qualified professional artists who have taken courses in designing murals, yet their expertise has not been utilized by the leadership on this island.

"Apart from the fact that it would lift our spirit to see a city that looks fundamentally different from what we see now, it also provides us with yet another attraction on an island our international guests now claim there is very little to see," he stated.

Pintard encouraged the Rotarians to imagine the story the artwork can tell about our history, as in noted cases around the world, in countries many of us have visited on more than one occasion, he notes, "It is not what you or any other visitor have seen on a tour that was so interesting and inviting but the story which captivated your heart and caused you and many others to return to that particular place."

Creativity and a meeting of the minds which include the stakeholders of Grand Bahama, the central government and policyholders just two elements that can thrust this island forward into realizing once again the joys of prosperity Pintard notes.

He however said there is yet one more element which must be considered and that is to remember in business quality will be remembered most, far after price is forgotten.

"In The Bahamas conventional wisdom tells us if you mind your price you are going to attract a tremendous amount of business, however, the truth of the matter is there are some folks whose price is much higher than ours who are doing much better.

"This is because their quality is exceptional and a part of the lesson Grand Bahama has to learn is quality is remembered long after price is forgotten and so while we ought to be concerned about price we should be more concerned about the quality of the product that we offer and the quality of service that we offer.

"We are competing in a global village but not all of our citizens have gotten this message and therefore the standard that is often set, is a standard that might be suitable for the Bahamian community.

"However in reality we are doing business with persons from around the world.

"The extent we are going to convince persons to spend money in The Bahamas to come here and invest, they must believe that the pool from which they are choosing labor is first class," he said.

According to Pintard no amount of pronouncements made by the Minister of Labour or Immigration is going to convince a potential investor that they are able on day one to get the requisite skills from a population that may not at this time have all of those skills.

He noted The Bahamas and Grand Bahama in particular, must be concerned about the quality of its workforce before price and consistently training and re-training individuals, companies and the country at large for better and stronger business, economic and social development.

"It is critical for us to deliver quality customer service but even more so employees who are not trained in that arena will not be able to do, so training is vital.

"All these things and more, inclusive of proper marketing and investment is important therefore we must do all we can to develop the right system and enact the right strategies to move Grand Bahama and The Bahamas forward and improve our economy and social condition," Pintard declared.