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Freeport Firms '100% Disagree'with Recovery Zone Exclusion

By YOURI KEMP

Freeport-based businesses yesterday "100 percent disagreed" with the government's decision not to designate Grand Bahama's commercial hub a Dorian "Economic Recovery Zone".

Others told Tribune Business that they felt the tax breaks and incentives package fell short when it came to providing financial assistance to homeowners as opposed to businesses.

Brent Collins, chief executive of Freeport-based Power Equipment Ltd, said: "I totally 100 percent disagree with the Economic Recovery Zone initiative announced by the Prime Minister being only for East Grand Bahama.

"If the businesses that are going to be able to help with the revitalisation of Grand Bahama are in downtown Freeport and central Grand Bahama, then I don't see how these companies can be left out of anything?"

Mr Collins added: "AID is out of supplies on any given day due to the high demand for batteries and basic items for survival. Dolly Madison is still not up and running yet, and Kelly's is not up and ready to go.

"So unless they plan to bring in foreign companies to help the people in east Grand Bahama, I don't see how you can leave Freeport businesses out of the Economic Recovery Zone initiative when it's the businesses in Freeport who have to do most of the heavy lifting with regard to recovery and restoration."

When asked by Tribune Business about what the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) is doing for businesses with regard to incentives and support, Mr Collins said from what he has seen Freeport's governing authority has been helping with supplies, bringing in water and attempting to restore power.

Godfrey Waugh, principal of Waugh Construction, said he felt the Economic Recovery Zone package fell a little short for private homeowners - especially those that have lost all their vehicles.

Arguing that Freeport was hit just as hard as east Grand Bahama, he told Tribune Business: "Our business was essentially wiped out. We were totally destroyed.

"As a business we will still be able to take advantage of our duty-free status under the Hawksbill Creek Agreement and the Grand Bahama Port Authority, but persons with private homes would have to strip their houses and rebuild altogether. In addition to that, West End needs to be able to benefit."

Mr Waugh continued: "As for now we've been contracted by a non-governmental organisation out of the United States, CORE, and we're doing clean-up in McClean's Town especially with regard to helping provide road access and taking away what homeowners are putting out front for us. Then the next step is cleaning up the home rubble."

When asked about what the GBPA was doing for businesses in Freeport, Mr Waugh said it has been instrumental in bringing in aid and relief for Grand Bahama.

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