By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The North Andros economy may have suffered $20-$30 million in losses as a result of Hurricane Matthew, the Chamber’s chief executive said yesterday.
Edison Sumner told Tribune Business these figures were a “guesstimate” based on the field assessments and reports coming back from the island, which the Nassau-based Chamber is using as the basis to kick-start relief efforts.
“Based on what I’ve seen, we’re looking at at least $20-$30 million in losses from the North Andros community,” Mr Sumner told Tribune Business. “In my mind, that could be what we’re facing, but we’re not sure what is insured, self-insured or damaged.”
The Chamber chief said his main goal was to prevent business “casualties” from becoming “fatalities”, with “all hands on deck” to prevent such an outcome.
He explained that the Chamber currently possessed lists of North Andros businesses that were impacted by Matthew, and what each one’s specific damages where. It is now beginning quantitative assessments to place a figure on the likely losses.
Describing the storm-related damage as “quite severe”, Mr Sumner said businesses in Lowe Sound, Nicholl’s Town, Mastic Point, Conch Sound and Morgan’s Bluff had all “suffered damage”.
The losses, he added, ranged from the “total loss of physical presence” to inventory loss/damage and damaged equipment and facilities. Those businesses impacted included food and grocery stores, hardware retailers, gas stations, restaurants and fishing and bonefish lodges.
Mr Sumner said that “now we have an idea of the damage”, the Chamber and Rotary disaster relief partnership, Rebuild Bahamas, would start reaching out to impacted businesses - in conjunction with the North Andros Chamber of Commerce - to encourage them to submit applications for assistance.
“One of the questions is going to be: What is the most pressing need you have that will get you back into place the quickest to start generating revenue and help you boost your economy,” Mr Sumner told Tribune Business.
Expressing concern that some North Andros-based businesses may have been missed in the initial Chamber post-Matthew assessments, he disclosed that follow-ups will be conducted, adding: “We don’t want to leave anyone behind.”
While the Chamber was still compiling the number of businesses impacted in North Andros, Mr Sumner said the assistance provided through Rebuild Bahamas could range from help with property repairs and infrastructure to inventory and IT/point-of-sale system replacement.
Chamber personnel have already conducted similar assessments on Grand Bahama, and are due to return to the island later this week, working in conjunction with its Chamber of Commerce.
“We will be conducting a similar exercise here in New Providence, and you’re going to see that moving in earnest in the next day or so,” Mr Sumner told Tribune Business.
“The challenge we’re having here is that we’re dealing with the centre of trade and commerce in the country, where most business activity occurs.
“The efforts required in New Providence and Grand Bahama are going to be significantly more that what we undertook a year ago [in the southern Bahamas with Joaquin],” he added.
“We’ve got a lot more businesses to deal with. The business community in New Providence and Grand Bahama is a lot more complex and diverse than what we met in the islands.”
Mr Sumner expressed hope that “most of the businesses we encounter in New Providence and Grand Bahama have some level of insurance”, thereby helping to minimise demands on the relief effort, and allowing Rebuild Bahamas to focus on those without financial protection.
With further discussions set to be held today on the relief efforts, Mr Sumner said “several initiatives” that could potentially allow storm-hit businesses to raise capital were under review.
“We’re hoping that between the efforts of the private sector, the Government and Rebuild Bahamas, we will be able to bring support to all the impacted businesses throughout the economy in terms of rebuilding,” the Chamber chief executive said.
“All hands are on deck to find the best solution to bring the relief in the shortest possible time to support those businesses.”
He added: “We don’t want to see any business fatalities. We know we’ve got a lot of casualties, but we don’t want any fatalities, although a number of businesses may find it difficult to get back into business at the levels they were before.
“We want to give them every opportunity to be successful, and get back to a place where they can generate revenue again.”