The Abaco Division
The Abaco Chamber of Commerce had its beginning in an organization named the Abaco Businessmen’s Association. This organization was began in the late 1960s or early 1970s by Neville “Big Daddy” Roberts, a business man from Nassau. It lasted for several years before fading away.
In the mid-1970s a Canadian second homeowner on Man-O-War Cay, Lindsey Scott, formed the Abaco Chamber of Commerce. He was very successful in promoting tourism on Abaco and was also responsible for starting the Rotary Club of Abaco, Regatta Time in Abaco, Abaco Life magazine and the Abaco Angler’s Association. As his health failed, the Chamber once again went into decline.
After Lindsey several others took up the challenging of keeping the Chamber active. Ian Ward, a Canadian bank manager, worked to keep it going but his unexpected death once again affected the Chamber. Marcel Albury of Albury’s Ferry, Barry Whiting, a manager of CIBC, Bill Johnston of Lawrence Engineering all served as president of the Chamber. Bill Johnston’s secretary, Rosemary Mills Thompson, served as the first Chamber secretary. She attended several U.S. Chamber workshops in Athens, Georgia, to learn more about how other chambers worked.
After a period of inactivity in the 1990's, the Chamber was revived with Mike Malone as president and Anita Knowles as the Chamber secretary. Mike was also the president of Rotary and the first Chief Councillor for the Central Abaco District Council. After his death, Michael Albury served as the Chamber president for several years. In 2007 a Chamber office was opened and shared with Abaco Pathfinders scholarship organization above Doug’s Place. Pathfinder’s secretary, Leazona Richard, became a part-time Chamber secretary. A major accomplishment under Michael’s term was the revision of the layout of the airport terminal building due to deficiencies found in the plans by Michael and Dave Ralph.
Michael Albury was succeeded as president by Dennis Lightbourn. Under Dennis’s leadership the Chamber’s name began to stand out and be recognized as a community organization focused on improving Abaco’s business climate. The Chamber’s status was enhanced when government’s proposed legislation for small and medium business development included a seat for the Abaco Chamber on the board of governors. That legislation remains to be enacted.
Subsequent accomplishments included an active campaign for educating the business community on the government’s impending Value Added Tax scheme as well as constant input with the Bahamas Chamber’s efforts on modifying the VAT program. A well attended Chamber seminar advised Bahamians holding dual citizenship on U.S. tax liabilities.
President Lightbourn and his family left the area in 2015 and Daphne Maioulis was chosen as president in December 2015 with Vado Bootle as vice president. Due to business demands on her time, Daphne and Vado switched roles in mid-2016 with Vado taking a very active role as Chamber president in moving the organization forward.
Further relevance for the Chamber’s role in Abaco’s progress occurred when the Prime Minister’s office asked the Chamber to mediate a dispute concerning commonage land adjoining the Schooner Bay development.The recent activities of the Abaco Chamber of Commerce have included Mix and Mngle social events along with companion Round Table Town Meetings. These have been held in Coopers Town, Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Hope Town and Crossing Rocks and the offshore settlements of Green Turtle Cay and Hope Town.
The Abaco Chanber has partnered with other NGO groups and has represented Abaco by attending events in Nassau and Florida. Two Chamber directors represented Abaco at an international exposition in Fort Lauderdale at the request of the U.S. Embassy.