The Abaco Chamber of Commerce hosted a presentation featuring three speakers from Nassau on January 7, 2017, for an outside view on how to move Abaco forward into the twenty-first century. The guest speakers were David Allen of the U.S. Embassy; Edison Sumner, Executive Director of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation; and Phil Simon, CEO of the Nassau Development Company and also a previous Bahamas Chamber director.
Abaco Chamber directors and a few local business leaders heard of proven methods and available resources to improve the Chamber’s stature with government and the Chamber’s effectiveness with using available resources to improve the business climate.
The Political and Economic Chief of the U.S. Embassy, David Allen, gave the role of the Embassy as representing the interests of the U.S. Government. He was complementary of our initiative and economy and was impressed with the incredible number of U.S. businesses interested in doing business with Abaco. He emphasized the need to work together, to build relations, to organize and to have credibility. Credibility is critical to any successful business venture. The Embassy is very cognizant of Abaco’s success at attracting influential and affluent second-homers to its shores.
Mr. Sumner spoke on the ability of the Bahamas Chamber to effectively work with government on a variety of issues. Much of the Chambers’ accomplishments is done quietly without public fanfare but which often results in government’s modifying proposed legislation or ministers revising regulations within their jurisdictions. Mr. Sumner emphasized the importance of support and input by the various Chambers in the Family Islands. The Bahamas Chamber is the voice of the private sector but needs local knowledge and support from the various islands. Government does listen when unified action is presented.
Mr. Simon gave valuable insights for expanding the Chamber’s membership and financial base. Although the Chamber directors are all unpaid volunteers, many of the programs the Chamber undertakes require funding. Without a visible Chamber presence, many Chamber initiatives are just empty words off in the distance. Inasmuch as the volunteer directors are full time business persons, it is incumbent that an active Office Manager and staff be put in place to write, phone and effectively push the Chamber’s agenda. This requires money for a salary and a visible business office.
The morning’s presentations were very helpful and encouraging to the Abaco directors. A light lunch afterwards allowed personal contacts in a relaxed atmosphere.