By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Minister of Foreign Affairs will deliver the keynote address at the 16th annual Abaco Business Outlook conference, which will be held on September 5 in Marsh Harbour.
Darren Henfield, also the north Abaco MP, will lead the speaker line-up at the Abaco Beach Resort for an event that will be held under the theme Connecting resources, maximising opportunities, transforming Abaco.
Other presenters include Maxine Duncombe, administrator, Central Abaco; Ken Hutton, president, Abaco Chamber of Commerce; Gaynell Rolle, chief valuation officer (acting) at the Department of Inland Revenue; Donovan Ingraham, wellness co-ordinator, Atlantic Medical; Delmaro Duncombe, senior Aliv business partner; Dave Smith, managing director, Bahamas Development Bank; Dr Keenan Larry Carroll, president/owner, The Sandpiper Inn and president of the Bahamas Out Island Promotion Board; Jevon Butler, chief sales officer, Kanoo; André Knowles, chief commercial officer, BTC; Rochelle Roberts, technical manager, NUA Agents & Brokers; and Noelle Nicholls, consultant, communications entre, Ministry of Finance.
Joan Albury, president of the TCL Group and chief Business Outlook organiser, said: "We are looking forward to a wonderfully exciting Abaco Business Outlook this year. The conditions are highly conducive. We made sure to put together a group of presenters covering key points of the economic spectrum.
"The areas represented align with those opportunities and concerns most closely related to business development in Abaco - matters relating to taxation and ease of doing business, for example. Who should attend? Anyone who is interested in business opportunities, because tourism in Abaco has been described as 'hot'.
"The Abaco mainland and the Cays are experiencing record numbers of visitors, and visitor satisfaction is high. Added to this bonanza, seasonal closures of resort properties have been at a minimum. Furthermore, the tourism forecast is green-lighting the upcoming fall season," she continued.
"Also factoring in the buoyancy of the Abaco economy is that island group's performance in the second and vacation home markets. Agriculture is also doing well. Opportunities for investment are abounding, as there is a rising demand for more rental homes, energy resources and eco-resorts. There is opportunity in agriculture, especially now that BAIC is granting Crown land."
Mrs Albury said the conference will also discuss the challenges Abaco shares with other parts of the country.
"It is vital to discuss also the challenges to the continued quality growth of the Abaco economy," she added. "We want, especially, to highlight those issues that are relevant to the entire Bahamas. Ease of doing business is still lagging. All over the country, business people, investors and ordinary citizens are complaining of too much red tape and the need for better scheduling of government agency inspections and connectivity among government agencies.
"Processes need to be simplified generally if we are to gain in the international ranking in this regard, which serves as prime factor in attracting quality investment. We have been told that the Customs roll-out of its Electronic Single Window (ESW) is still experiencing road bumps, and Customs brokers are frustrated. Access to capital is also still a major challenge to economic growth, so we have made sure to include a representative of Bahamas Development Bank among our presenters."
Mrs Albury continued: "As the organisers of Business Outlook, we at TCL believe that many of Abaco's more significant concerns are - or should be - shared by the nation as a whole, because other islands are beset by the same problems and some represent a threat to our way of life.
"Illegal immigration and overfishing, and poaching in our waters, are still vexing issues, as are lack of preparation for hurricanes and bush fires and the risk of inappropriate development driving off existing business for lack of proper zoning policies, especially in communities such as Hope Town on Elbow Cay."
Those interested in attending the Abaco Business Outlook may register/contact: The Abaco Chamber of Commerce at e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 367-5822; Wynsome Ferguson, Ministry of Tourism, Abaco, e-mail: email@example.com, Tel. 242-669-152 or 242-669-0161; Margaret Albury, The Counsellors Ltd., e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. 242-322-7505. Online registration is available at www.tclevents.com