The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) is moving to help the island's economy "RISE" before Christmas through its partnership with a global humanitarian and development organisation.
Freeport's quasi-governmental authority teamed with Mercy Corps (MC) to yesterday unveil the "Restoring Industries and Sustaining Employment" (RISE) initiative, which aims to give small and medium-sized businesses access to much-needed funding as they prepare for the upcoming holiday season.
The RISE initiative will offer grants to at least 100 qualifying Grand Bahama businesses that have suffered losses as a direct result of Hurricane Dorian. Grants of up to $10,000 will be offered, with applicants having access to Mercy Corps' MicroMentor programme. This pairs business owners with mentors in their sector to help guide their progress.
Henry St George, GBPA director, said the RISE initiative stemmed from the GBPA's post-Hurricane Dorian assessment of nearly 2,000 licensees.
"Our post-Dorian SME assessment revealed some very sobering data," he added. "We learned that nearly 70 percent of licensees were either uninsured or underinsured; 55 percent suffered significant damage due to flooding; and while 60 percent of businesses have re-opened, they continue to struggle to acquire new inventory, replace damaged equipment and operate in this testing environment."
Realising that GBPA licensees needed rapid support to combat these challenges, Mr St George added: "Businesses that remain closed or that have been able to reopen only partially need an immediate injection of capital. This help will assist the reestablishment of operations for many of them.
"Mercy Corps is known globally for its post-disaster recovery experience, and we are delighted to be leveraging their expertise for this programme and proud to be partnering with them on the RISE initiative."
The RISE initiative will offer the grants over the next six months, with applications starting from today. A vetting and approval committee comprised of the GBPA, Mercy Corps, the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce and relevant sector specialists will oversee the application process. Businesses can qualify for a grant of up to $10,000 based on the size of the company, the number of employees, the business sector, extent of damages, its viability and other factors.
Pete Sweetnam, Mercy Corps country director for The Bahamas, said: "Mercy Corps is delighted to be working in collaboration with the GBPA on this initiative to assist with rebuilding of the economy of Grand Bahama, as well as opening up vital employment opportunities.
"Mercy Corps is bringing its global expertise in the area of re-establishing viable businesses post-disaster and making them more resilient. Building back better. Our MicroMentor programme, which currently has some 69,000 entrepreneurs and 25,000 mentors across nearly 200 countries, promotes collaboration to overcome obstacles to entrepreneurial success, will be a part of the initiative and open to all businesses right across Grand Bahama."
Mercy Corps has brought considerable funding to the RISE initiative, including from the American Red Cross, and is continuing to seek additional financing and new partners for it. This will enable even more businesses to restart, rebuild and thrive, and create badly-needed employment across Grand Bahama.
The GBPA/Mercy Corps partnership will place emphasis on small business training, inclusive of disaster recovery planning; post-disaster finance and marketing training; and insurance management. Its MicroMentor programme for small businesses will provide post-recovery guidance to participating businesses for up to a year.
"We have just come through one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in the history of The Bahamas, which dealt a crippling blow to our business community," said Derek Newbold, the GBPA's senior manager of business development and Invest Grand Bahama.
"It will take unique measures to rebuild, restore and recover what we as a nation have lost. Our partnership with Mercy Corps is a great start to restoring the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy."
To download a copy of the RISE initiative's grant application, visit riseGBPA.com or visit the GBPA's head office to obtain a copy of this application.