By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
A Bahamian businessman yesterday voiced surprise that Gold Rock and its principals have decided to exit Freeport after expanding the size of their business interests in recent years.
James Rolle, Dolly Madison’s general manager, told Tribune Business the size of their concrete manufacturing business alone suggested the Florida-based Del Zotto family did not require any other operations to provide alternative, diverse revenue streams.
“If you see the type of operation, you would figure that with that type of operation you wouldn’t need any other businesses in Freeport. Because in the last few years they actually expanded their square footage almost at three times of what they were operating initially,” he added.
Mr Rolle spoke after the Del Zottos revealed last Friday that, besides Gold Rock, their pre-cast, block and ready mix concrete manufacturer, they also plan to shutter the Home Design Center and Do It Center, their hardware and furniture/home stores.
Immediately following the closure announcement, a Home Design Centre advertisement was promoting a “30 percent off” storewide sale with effect from Saturday on all appliances, housewares, rugs, bedding and other decor accessories, describing this as a “clearance sale; everything must go” with “all sales final”.
The Del Zottos announced their departure as relations with the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), plus its Grand Bahama Development Company (DevCO) affiliate, appeared to have completely broken down with little prospect of reconciliation.
The spark that triggered the conflict appears to have been Gold Rock’s negotiations with DevCO over access to aggregate/fill in the latter’s Devonshire subdivision that was critical for its ready mix, block and pre-cast concrete products. DevCO, though, has argued that Gold Rock’s continued monopoly over this source cannot be justified because it had under-performed the previous contract by not taking the stipulated tonnage.
Unable to make headway over the terms they want, Gold Rock and the Del Zottos branded the GBPA as “the leaders of the most grossly underperforming island in The Bahamas” as they unveiled the shuttering of not just their concrete-making business but also their Grand Bahama-based hardware store and furniture and home centre.
The GBPA, though, said DevCO wanted to “right size” the deal such that Gold Rock would still have access to the same level of aggregate it previously mined, and be able to sustain its operations, but give up its exclusivity to let other Bahamian contractors have access to the same fill and thus create a “more equitable” arrangement for all industry players.
Arguing that the Home Design Center and Do It Center closures are “unnecessary”, because they are not impacted by the aggregate talks, the GBPA said: “This move, seemingly motivated by nothing but spite, will cost yet more hardworking families their livelihoods and further shrink the options available to consumers in a struggling economy.”
Acknowledging that Grand Bahama’s economy has been “topsy-turvy” since Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016, with even more devastating blows subsequently inflicted by Dorian and COVID, Mr Rolle said of the aggregate contract dispute: “DevCo may have realised that they can’t be blind to everything that is asked of them to do because DevCo/GBPA is supposed to be looking out for all licensees.
“You can’t be giving concessions to one and then the other licensees are out there just trying to make ends meet. I think DevCo realises they should be getting more out of the deal than they were getting.”