By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Island Luck’s co-founder yesterday pledged that tenants in his newly-constructed Abaco commercial complex can enjoy the first six months’ “rent free” to help the island’s post-Dorian rebound.
Sebas Bastian, speaking at the Resilience Square Commerce Centre’s opening, said the almost two-year project represented his contribution to aiding the island’s recovery from the devastating category five storm.
Brickell Management Group, an Island Luck affiliate that Mr Bastian chairs, funded and constructed the 15-unit Resilience Square that is located in Marsh Harbour. He said: “This facility was designed to aid the return of commerce to this great island of Abaco.
“It was clear that targeted and co-ordinated investments, such as these types of projects, create anchor facilities, restore a quality of life and encourage residents to return home and stimulate this economy.”
Mr Bastian pledged that businesses seeking to lease space in Resilience Square can enjoy up to “six months rent free”, thus ensuring start-ups and small and medium-sized firms can “catch themselves” following the burst of initial costs that they will incur.
Ken Hutton, the Abaco Chamber of Commerce’s president, said: “What Abaco needed was places for businesses to open. It took a long time to get locations. We’re still begging for locations for businesses. About 40 percent of our businesses pre-Dorian have returned to Abaco, so we have a long way to go.
“Despite COVID, we have come a long, long way. Abaco is an amazing community. They are people that just get stuff done. Regardless of what’s going on they just get stuff done. There’s a lot of work still left to be done in Abaco, and it’s going to take co-operation between the private sector and the public sector to get things done.”
The prime minister, who attended the ground-breaking, said: “Resilience Square stands as a symbol of the progress we are making together to rebuild Abaco. My administration quickly recognised the enormous outpouring of assistance and support that had already been given from individuals and organisations, both domestic and international. We coordinated these efforts where possible to ensure that help found its way to those who needed it most.”
Acknowledging that reconstruction will take time given the estimated $3.4bn in damages and losses inflicted by Hurricane Dorian, which devastated both Abaco and Grand Bahama, Dr Hubert Minnis said these costs had been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic which had conspired to delay reconstruction efforts.
He added that his administration is focused on building back stronger, and with buildings that can withstand category five force winds. Dr Minnis said this is something the Disaster Reconstruction Authority is focusing on along with strengthening economies on the affected islands and restoring public services in education, healthcare and housing.