By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
The Bahamas Striping group is “90 per cent there” in talks with the Government over an $8.25 million ‘public-funded partnership’ (PFP) for airport and road maintenance throughout the Bahamas.
Speaking with Tribune Business at the recent opening of its $2 million headquarters on Abundant Life Road, Atario Mitchell, Bahamas Striping ‘s president, said that the group was in negotiations with the Government on a public-private partnership (PPP).
He declined to reveal the proposed sums involved, but the invitation to the head office opening detailed an $8.25 million programme involving road maintenance in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Acklins, Cat Island, Eleuthera, Exuma and San Salvador.
It is unclear how the proposed PFP would work, though, and if the bulk of the $8.25 million funding would come from the Government via the Bahamian taxpayer.
“What we have proposed to the Government is two PFPs. The Government calls it public-private partnership, but we call it PFP, public-funded partnership,” said Mr Mitchell.
“There are two proposals, one pertaining to the airport and the other the roadworks. We look at it from a road safety point of view. What we decided to do was put a proposal out to the Government for the Family Island roads. We have seen a lot of traffic fatalities in the Family Islands recently, which could have been avoided if there was proper signage and road markings.”
Mr Mitchell added: “ We are proposing to bring all of the roads up to standard with signage and marking, and we also decided to do a nationwide road safety campaign. We have $500,000 set aside in our budget for that campaign.”
Mr Mitchell said that of the 58 airports throughout the Bahamas, the group had flagged 10 as priorities due to heavy international traffic, with the intent to bring them up to International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards.
Back in December, Airport Maintenance Services (AMS), a Bahamas Striping subsidiary, signed a $300,000 contract with Resorts World Bimini and the Genting Group to upgrade the airport in South Bimini.
“We are excited we are getting a favourable response from the Government. We still haven’t put ink to paper as yet, but we’re in the negotiation stage. In our last meeting they said we were 90 per cent there, so it’s just about coming to an agreement on figures and scope of work,” said Mr Mitchell, adding that Bahamas Striping’s financial consultant was Providence Advisors.
Mr Mitchell said the Bahamas Striping Group was also looking to expand further into the Caribbean via another subsidiary, Caribbean Pavement Solutions (CPS). “Caribbean Pavement Solutions, one of our latest companies, would focus strictly on the Caribbean market and all aspects of paving maintenance,” he added.
“We have that flagged as the company that is going to propel us into the Caribbean market. We have already started making contacts out there. We are already in talks down in Haiti and Turks and Caicos, and we’re looking at some projects down there. The future looks bright for expanding outside of the country.”
Mr Mitchell said the group currently has 12 full-time employees, with three to four part-time staff. “In the next week or so we will be doing interviews for sales persons and a project manager,” said Mr Mitchell.
Bahamas Striping began with a $5,000 grant from the Government’s self-starter programme in 2010. The company, whose first contract was for roughly $1,400, has secured “multiple” $500,000 bids since that time, according to its managing director, Allen Albury, who it had netted roughly $5-$10 million in contracts over its four-year history.
“Bahamas Striping has from inception been a company that entered a market that was challenged. When we came in there was a major monopoly, being a foreign-based entity, doing all of the striping,” said Mr Albury.
“There were a few Bahamian entities, most of which were either defunct or on the cusp of shutting down and could not sustain themselves. We saw an opportunity to do things differently, realising that in order to compete with a global player we had to be at the same level of competency and have the same capacity with the technology and equipment.
“We have developed four companies, four separate brands, and the goal is to take Bahamas Striping from just a striping company to a full road maintenance compan,y doing everything except paving; that means drainage and manhole cleaning, vacuuming streets, everything to signage.”