Amid the afternoon rain on Tuesday, a construction worker carries a cinderblock into the southernmost building under construction in the Huntums Ghut Economic Zone. (Photo: RUSHTON SKINNER)

After years of delays, the government’s Economic Zone project in Huntums Ghut is nearing completion, according to Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer.

“As of September 2023, the project is approximately 65 percent complete and with an anticipated completion date of the first quarter in 2024,” Mr. Rymer said during a Sept. 7 House of Assembly meeting in response to questions from opposition member Marlon Penn.

The Economic Zone intends to provide affordable spaces for existing small businesses and new businesses to sell goods, products and services, according to the minister.

Once these businesses grow, they are expected to leave the Economic Zone and create space for new enterprises, creating a “continual growth cycle,” Mr. Rymer said.

“An application process will be convened in the near future where persons will have the opportunity to submit their applications, inclusive of their business plans, for evaluation prior to being assigned a space at the Economic Zone,” he told the HOA. “It is expected that between the two buildings, there will be over 25 spaces of varied sizes to offer to small businesses.”

Plans changed

The project broke ground in October 2020, with initial plans of constructing three one-storey buildings that would house six businesses each.

Following a tender process, Cabinet decided in October 2021 to award a nearly $550,000 contract to Accurate Construction to erect the buildings, the Cabinet Office announced at the time.

But delays followed, and government announced in March of this year that the plans had been altered to include two two-storey buildings instead of three one-storey buildings.

Mr. Rymer said this month that initial cost estimates for the project stood at $1,377,500, and government had spent $788,717 so far.

“The contractual works for the two two-storey buildings are approximately 75 percent complete,” he added. “Building one is approximately 90 percent complete and is awaiting the arrival of the exterior doors and final painting to substantially complete this building.”

The second building is approximately 60 percent complete, with works currently ongoing on the wall enclosures at the lower level, he said.

Other outstanding tasks include work on the bathroom building, construction of a gazebo, an upgrade of the basketball court, and completion of the road