$170m Exuma project targets up to 300 jobs

• Mixed-use resort eyed for island’s southern tip

• Plans for 161 residences and 81-slip marina

• EIA warns ‘alarming lack of health facilities’

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

A $170m investment targeted at Exuma’s southern tip is pledging to create up to 300 full-time jobs - plus several hundred construction posts - via the phased build-out of a mixed-use resort and residential project.

The PMR Bahamas development, for which the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been released ahead of the August 24 public consultation, plans to develop an 81-slip marina, 161 residential lots, boutique resort with 40 keys, and an 18-hole golf course on 707-acre Torch Cay, also known as Hog Cay.

The document, which has been reviewed by Tribune Business, does not name the project’s principals but indicates that they will seek to upgrade the privately-owned island’s existing runway to a facility able to win International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) designation. This newspaper was pointed to an international real estate developer headed by a well-known Bahamian business executive, but their involvement could not be confirmed before press time.

The EIA, meanwhile, also warns that there is “an alarming lack of public health facilities” on Exuma, an issue that has been cited as a potential investment deterrent on many Family Islands, but which Doctors Hospital is hoping to address through the opening of its new Georgetown clinic within the next 90 days.

Many of this newspaper’s Exuma contacts were unaware of the proposed Torch Cay development when contacted yesterday, but the EIA affirmed: “Torch Cay is a privately owned 707-acre island situated to the east of Little Exuma at the southernmost point of the Exuma Island chain.

“The $170m proposed development by PMR Bahamas is a mixed-use luxury resort and residential development complete with an 18-hole golf course, 81-slip marina and channel, 161 residential lots, 40 hotel keys resort, marina village and runway with an International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) designation.

“Amenities include the creation of new beaches and expansion/improvement of existing beaches; overwater bungalows; agricultural and husbandry area (farms); equestrian facilities; golf clubhouse; spa and sports pavilion; and natural areas. Back-of-house (BOH) operations will provide solid waste management, electricity, potable water, and sewerage facilities. Guests and visitors will arrive at designated and secure locations.”

Detailing the project’s likely economic and social impact on Exuma, especially the Williams Town community, the document adds: “The project is anticipated to be developed over two phases.... Full build-out will take between eight and 12 years, creating between 375 to 425 jobs during construction and 250 to 300 jobs during operation.

“While the population of Exuma and its cays nearly doubled between the 2000 and 2010 census to just below 7,000, Little Exuma does not exhibit this growth and will benefit directly from its proximity to Torch Cay. Employees who live on Exuma will be able to travel to the cay for daily operations via provided busing and transportation along Queens Highway.

“The community of Little Exuma will benefit directly from community outreach programmes, which may include adoption of the Williams Town school; a cultural village at Forbes Hill; and additional educational support and training to the residents of Exuma.”

Chester Cooper, deputy prime minister, and who also has ministerial responsibility for investments, is Exuma’s MP and has taken a keen interest in stimulating his constituency’s economy. The PMR Bahamas EIA pledges that the development will seek to prioritise the hiring of Exuma residents for available construction and full-time posts when they become available.

“PMR has adopted a policy of hiring local staff and businesses to the greatest extent feasible. It is a priority of PMR to employ and train local Bahamians, and engage Bahamian firms and companies in all areas, including architecture, engineering, surveying, information technology, professional firms, construction companies and/or sub-contractors and logistics companies,” the document added.

“It is acknowledged, however, that there will be instances where certain specialised overseas firms and staff will be needed for construction and operations. PMR intends to assess the local skills available for the operations based upon local due diligence, including canvassing and job/career fairs in the local communities. 

“Most importantly, PMR believes it will have an extremely significant impact on the local Exumian communities of Williams Town, Forbes Hill, Hartswell and Little and Great Exuma. PMR intends to provide employees a stay-at-home option by utilising the Queens Highway to provide busing and transportation options for travel to the cay for daily operations. Keeping the family unit, local communities and church parishioners together is a priority of PMR.”

Besides executive management, department heads and supervisory posts, the EIA said PMR will eventually hire be hiring full-time staff in areas such as farm, marina, restaurant, resort and airport/fixed base operations (FBO), as well as for the golf club and a sports complex.

However, it also acknowledged Exuma’s infrastructure deficiencies. “In Exuma, there is an alarming lack of public health facilities. Some of the services that are not offered in Exuma and the cays are optometry, general x-rays, geriatric care, psychiatric care, substance abuse treatment, obstetrics and gynecology, mammography, ultrasounds, and many more,” the document said.

“Fortunately, services such as pediatric care, ambulatory/emergency care, general clinic services and pharmacies are available in six major locations across the archipelagic region.” The project’s energy supply will come from a mix of solar farm and diesel generators, with the former providing between 41 percent and 62 percent of peak demand.

“It is anticipated that solar will produce up to 30 percent of power needs with the exception of higher and peak occupancy times,” the EIA said. “Diesel generation will be programmed to meet 100 percent of the full power needs plus a contingency of 20 percent. The gensets will be phased in over time to meet the development build-out.”

As for PMR Bahamas’ water needs, the EIA said: “The total average daily demand during the peak season when the development is at 100 percent occupancy is anticipated to be approximately 122,000 gallons per day (gpd). The maximum daily demand for the golf course will be approximately 600,000 gpd during the grow-in period, and 400,000 gpd during the operational period.”