The formal launch of The Bahamas Business and Investment Conference Tuesday signaled the beginning of branding The Bahamas as a destination for foreign direct investment that is open for business, Minister of State for Investments Khaalis Rolle revealed.
The conference, which is sponsored by the Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA), the Commonwealth Business Council (CBC), the Bahamas government and members of the business community, is set for Grand Bahama in February 2013.
"The conference sort of signifies the relaunch of how we invest in The Bahamas and how we promote in The Bahamas," he said at a press conference at the Grand Lucayan Resort yesterday.
"...We had the benefit of taking the long-term approach to this in some regards, but the imperative is that we need to do a lot of things very quickly and in a very big way. ...This conference will underscore that The Bahamas is open for business and there are some unique opportunities associated with doing business in The Bahamas."
Minister Rolle explained the move behind the decision to host the event in the nation's second city.
"The Bahamas is one of those destinations that have so many unique features and Grand Bahama is one that we wanted to highlight with this conference," he said, citing the island's strategic advantage in shipping and logistics.
"There are many people in Europe, many companies that don't understand what the means to improving the way they do business; improving their bottom line."
Rolle pointed out that in years past The Bahamas has had a tremendous amount of activity but has never really defined itself as a destination for foreign direct investment.
However, he is convinced that with the help of the CBC and all of the stakeholders the government will be able to brand The Bahamas globally.
"As we officially launch this conference I would like to invite the business community to jump on-board and assist us in really defining what The Bahamas is in terms of investment," he said.
Cognizant that the world has gone through a very difficult period in the last four or five years with the global recession close to a depression, GBPA Chairman Ian Fair pointed out that it would have been impossible to get people to invest over the last few years in their own country, let alone any other country.
Today, the GBPA has a different view, Fair said, adding that the 2013 conference is an important event in the life and future of Grand Bahama and a clear example of how the entities want to work together in the future to further the efforts of developing business in each country.
Critical of that is finding investment to create jobs, according to the GBPA executive.
"We see a lot of opportunity out there and we think this is a catalyst, this forum, to educate people on what the opportunities are on Grand Bahama and Freeport," he said.
"We've got good stakeholders here already, we just need to get more of them and create some momentum."
A series of meetings have been held over the last two days in New Providence and Grand Bahama as part of the planning process.
Major stakeholders in Grand Bahama were also hosted to a luncheon on Tuesday and informed of sponsorship opportunities and the advantages to opening their data bases.
"The true success of this forum will be how many foreign visitors and investors we can get to come here to understand and to be informed about the opportunities we're offering in The Bahama," he said.
GBC Director General and Chief Executive Peter Longworth pointed out that their mandate is to promote investment in member countries and, after putting on about 100 investment forums in the last 13 years, they are excited about next year's event.
"We're looking forward to bringing some core people from the international investor community to Grand Bahama," he said.