By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
A Bahamian non-profit organisation has injected $15-$20 million into south Eleuthera’s economy since 2008, and is now setting its sights on expansion.
Shaun Ingraham, One Eleuthera Foundation’s co-founder, yesterday said the non-profit and entities like it could become a “third pillar” of the Bahamian economy by growing their social enterprise activities.
Speaking at a press conference to preview next week’s Eleuthera Business Outlook conference, Mr Ingraham said the Foundation was assessing how its model could be “scaled up” and replicated on other islands and throughout the Bahamas.
“We estimate that the impact for south Eleuthera from 2008 has been close to $15-$20 million,” he said. “That’s a small group of people from the island coming together to make things better.
“We are on the ground every day, looking to bring this out, and see what works and what doesn’t work. We’ve hired 60 people, and are moving from start-up to scale up.”
Mr Ingraham said the Foundation was now reviewing its progress over the last five years to determine how its model could be “scaled up” and taken to a national level or other islands.
“This is where this sector needs to go,” he added. “I think it can be a third pillar. Tourism and banking previously provided a stable economy, but we need social enterprise and the citizen sector, hiring people and bringing them back to the island.”
One Eleuthera Foundation is a non-profit aiming to bring together all island residents, Bahamians and foreigners, to improve their community from an education, health and wellness, environment and economic development standpoint.
Headquartered at the former Rock Sound Club, where it has its offices and Training and Innovation Centre, the Foundation is planning to expand the facility from 16 rooms to 20 by year-end 2017.
Mr Ingraham said “a large portion” of the Foundation’s $15-$20 million investment had come from second homeowner donations, but he estimated that around one-third represented in’ kind contributions from Bahamians “stepping up to the plate” and donating materials, labour and time free of charge.
Besides the training and technical support, the Foundation has also helped form the One Eleuthera Co-Operative Credit Union to provide the community with much-needed financial services.
“A lot of young entrepreneurs just don’t have anywhere to go to get financing to start a business,” Mr Ingraham said, disclosing that the credit union now has 200 members and can offer loans.
Detailing the Foundation’s expansion plans, he added that it wanted to establish a technical and training centre at James Cistern, and broaden the credit union’s presence on the island.
“For the last five years we’ve been primarily in the south,” Mr Ingraham said. “We wanted to establish a firm base. Now we have that, we have a plan to expand, taking the credit union into the central and northern part of the island. That’s on the drawing board this year.”
The Foundation also has the restoration and clean-up of Eleuthera’s historical and cultural sites as one of its core objectives, believing the island offers significant opportunities for these types of tourism and eco-tourism.
“Most of the cultural and heritage sites are in poor condition,” Mr Ingraham said. “We need to strengthen those sites. We’ve got sites all over Eleuthera that need to be protected.”
He listed sites such as Preacher’s Cave and Lighthouse Point, suggesting their revival could pave the way for an “explosion” of the Blue economy.
Joan Albury, president of conference organisers, The Counsellors, said Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina - its venue - had just invested $10 million into an expansion.
She added that Silver Airways, which will also be presenting at the conference, will be unveiling new routes and pricing for the Bahamas.
Stephen Thompson, Bahamas Ferries’ chief financial officer, said the company had its eighth vessel currently under construction.