EDITOR, The Tribune.
I was troubled to read in The Tribune a prominent contractor in Grand Bahama gloating over the potential departure of the Del Zotto family. The patriarch of the Del Zotto family is William John Del Zotto. Born in 1942, he is the son of the late William Mario Del Zotto -- an Italian who migrated to the US during World War II. The elder Del Zotto worked as a brick layer for US Steel in Duluth, Minnesota. He would assist his son in getting started in the pre-cast concrete business, Del Zotto Manufacturing. William John Del Zotto invested millions in Freeport, via Gold Rock Concrete, Do It Centre and Home Design Centre.
Approximately 130 jobs are at risk if the American investor leaves Grand Bahama. His financial tentacles are also in Minnesota, Florida and Texas. What this means is that Del Zotto does not need Freeport in order to survive. That’s why he can nonchalantly turn his back on his multimillion dollar investment without any regrets. Del Zotto, unbeknownst to many Bahamians, is also an inventor, having invented and patented hundreds of pre-cast forms. The impasse between Del Zotto and the Grand Bahama Development Company (DEVCO) is over the Devonshire subdivision that Gold Rock reportedly had exclusive rights to mine aggregate. The subdivision is located on the Grand Lucayan waterway -- a network of canals dredged by LBI during the 1970s.
For what it’s worth, the aggregate material at Devonshire is not as good as the aggregate Freeport Aggregates mined before Hurricane Dorian. Despite this, Del Zotto was still able to produce the best concrete products in The Bahamas. In fact, Del Zotto Products ranked 17 in the world in 2014. The Del Zotto branch in Texas is managed by his son, William Mark “Billy”, recognised by Concrete Construction Magazine in 2016 as one of the most influential figures in the concrete industry.
The aforementioned Freeport contractor and others are of the view that Gold Rock, by virtue of its privileges at Devonshire, was able to corner the concrete market on Grand Bahama. This alleged arrangement made it difficult for other concrete businesses to compete in the free market. At least this is the opinion of certain Freeport contractors. Whether or not there is any merit to these allegations, no sensible person on the ground can deny the potential fallout caused by Del Zotto’s departure from Freeport. With the ending of the Devonshire agreement, the Bahamian contractors who are salivating over the Del Zotto and DEVCO fallout are likening the former as a privileged kid who takes up his ball and goes home sulking once the game is no longer going his way. Where will the 130 displaced Grand Bahamians go? Remember, as Free National Movement Leader Michael Pintard said, these job losses will impact 130 families.
Freeport cannot absorb 130 job losses. I can point to only one major development currently under construction, which is Solomon’s downtown Freeport. The state-owned Grand Lucayan Resort, which is running on fumes, is only open because it is being subsidised by the state. The tourism sector in Grand Bahama is not in the position to absorb 130 displaced Grand Bahamians. Some months back Prime Minister Philip Brave was brutally honest when he informed the Press that while Dubai investors are eager to invest in The Bahamas, they’re not interested in Grand Bahama. To Grand Bahamians, those words cut deep. Del Zotto’s departure would serve to reinforce that narrative. The 130 Grand Bahamians and their families stand to lose far more than the Del Zotto family. It is absolutely imperative that DEVCO and the Grand Bahama Port Authority reach out to the Del Zotto with an olive branch. Despite the well-publicised back-and-forth, I believe that reconciliation is possible.
Freeport, Grand Bahama.
August 10, 2022.