MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas – Bahamas' private sector is moving in to try to speed up the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Dorian caused about $7 billion in damages. Families are still hoping to find relatives who vanished when the storm beat the islands with 185 mph winds and 23-foot-high storm surge.
Concerned about the Abaco Islands' 60% uninsured and the government's lack of resources, Ken Hutton, the president of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce, launched Project Resurrect, an initiative to fund studies and raise funding, which will have a board of directors and a board of trustees.
"We are looking forward to getting Abaco back in business," Hutton said, adding that the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce was also involved in the vision of a "New Abaco."
Marsh Harbour's infrastructure is severely damaged. Street lights are not working. Fire department stations are destroyed. Banks and stores are closed. Debris covers most roads. But Hutton hasn't lost hope. He believes a public-private partnership is the solution. He sees an opportunity.
"We have a blank canvas," Hutton said. "What would we like for Marsh Harbour to look like in five to 10 years? And what's it going to take to do that? OK, well. Let's bring in some of the best city planners in the world to say, 'This is what you have, and this is what it can look like, and this is how much is going to cost.'"
Hutton knows some entrepreneurs took out financing through mortgages on their homes. He knows some small businesses will not be able to recover, yet he also believes a commercial comeback is possible in one year in Abaco if Marsh Barbour, the center of commercial activity, recovers.
City planners, he said, can come up with a strategy for civil planning and construction. His vision also includes finding ways to help entrepreneurs with loans and grants.
"We are going to take those ideas, and we are going to take them to government and say, 'OK, here is what we've financed, these studies. Here are the recommendations, and here is the money to do it,'" Hutton said.