History of The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce
The year 1981 marked the official birth of The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce, under the leadership of ex-banker David Bain. David Bain and a small group of businessmen – both Bahamians and non Bahamians, were determined that it was most necessary that the void created by demise of the Freeport Chamber of Commerce (eighteen months previously) be filled by an institute that would flow from mainstream of the business community. Essentially, some felt that there was a growing gap between the local businessmen on the one side and the Grand Bahama Port Authority Company cum the Bahamas Government on the other hand. Prime movers in the establishment of the new Chamber with David Bain as president were Dr. Marcus Bethel, B.A. Verdant Christie, Erma Grant-Smith, T. Maitland Cates, Eugene Edwards, Oscar Porter, Giles Newbold, Charles Coakley, Hank Fulmer, Roger Pinder, Capt. Audley Russell, Chappie Bartlette, Eva Schaffner (First Vice President) and Alton Wallace (Second Vice President).
This was not an easy task but it was carried out with relative ease and enthusiasm because of the generous support and assistance given by the Grand Bahama Port Authority and the large chemical plants along with Bahamas Oil Refining Company (BORCO) located on West Sunrise Highway. The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce also received valuable assistance from The Bahamas Chamber of Commerce by written advice and putting The Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce on the map with important national and international contacts. This support allowed the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce to face its growing pains with vigor while at the same time attracting healthy diversified membership that served as a healthy barometer of the growth and development of the business community of Grand Bahama Island.
It is safe to say that from a national point of view, the life of The Grand Bahama Chamber during the first ten years reflected the economic “ups” and “downs” of the whole Commonwealth of The Bahamas. In the early 1990’s it is recorded that the membership of the Chamber reached the number 50 during its first year of inception. In those days the Chamber was viewed by some as a private club for special interests, and viewed by others as an organization dominated by the larger business entities. Today, the membership list is approaching 300 members. The Grand Bahama Port Authority, (a quasi-governmental agency charged with the administration of the city of Freeport) was warmly receptive of the Chamber from the very beginning and provided office facilities gratis in the Sir Charles Hayward Library Building.
On February 3, 2003 the Chamber moved to its permanent, ultra-modern office complex situated on The Mall Drive and on November 14, 2003 an official opening ceremony was held in celebration of this accomplishment. The keynote speaker was president of the Grand Bahama Port Authority Mrs. Willie Moss and remarks were given by former Chamber President Constance McDonald who was in fact the president who started a fund raiser to provide a permanent “home” for the Chamber.