FREEPORT - "We're very much oriented towards building business ties," said the US Embassy's economic officer Kyle Hatcher during his first official trip to Grand Bahama. "Part of my portfolio is to do outreach as much as I can outside of Nassau. Freeport is the economic engine and on an economic and political level, it's good for us to get out and build those relationships," he said. Mr Hatcher's comments were welcomed by the executives of the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) with whom he held discussions. GBPA president Ian Rolle said: "We certainly welcome your involvement and want to see an even greater United States presence. "Our whole city is a free trade zone and Freeport is far better suited for growth than anywhere else in the Bahamas. "Our message is about using this unique situation in Freeport to benefit the island's residents and our brothers and sisters in the entire Bahamas." Opportunities for developing sister-city relationships between Freeport and key US cities were discussed, along with the prospect of establishing information technology programmes or related businesses in the Bahamas. "Elsewhere in the Caribbean, even the smallest countries have burgeoning IT industries, and here you've got an incredibly smart and educated workforce," Mr Hatcher said. The discussions touched on possible economic opportunities available through bilateral partnerships, as well as social issues. Citing his country's significant involvement in the fight against AIDS as an example, Mr Hatcher encouraged more non-governmental agencies (NGOs) on the island to take advantage of available grant funds. The current call for proposals expires on March 15 and details of the application process are available on the embassy's website. "The more partnerships we can foster, the better," said Mr Rolle. Mr Hatcher agreed: "There is much potential here, along with expertise, will power and governmental goodwill on this side."


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