PVAMU team participates in Houston Mayor’s Trade Delegation to Bahamas

A team of representatives from PVAMU recently participated in a trade delegation from the City of Houston that visited The Bahamas from Dec. 5-8.

Due to the events surrounding the passing of President George H.W. Bush, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner had to cancel his plans to lead the delegation. The delegation ultimately included Vice Mayor Pro-Tem Jerry Davis (a PVAMU alumnus from the College of Education), members from the Greater Houston Partnership, Commissioner Theldon Branch from the Port of Houston, members of the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce, and representatives from PVAMU and Texas Southern University. The PVAMU team representing President Simmons included Munir Quddus, dean, College of Business, Frank Jackson, assistant vice chair for governmental affairs, TAMUS and Oscar Taylor, Trustee, PVAMU Foundation (representing Gerard D’Souza, dean, College of Agriculture and Human Sciences).

The PVAMU team arrived in the city of Nassau on Wednesday, Dec. 5, and later met a group of Bahamian alumni invited by Vernita Harris, a PVAMU College of Business alumna. As a member of IMPACT consulting, Harris served as the main organizer of this trade delegation. Harris also serves on the College of Business’s dean advisory board and works as a consultant in Bahamas, in addition to being a major donor to the university.

Among the PVAMU alums from The Bahamas in attendance were Marco Rolle, who serves as the Under Secretary to the current Attorney General, and Monica Rancher, from the State Department stationed in Bahamas. From the Greater Houston Black Chamber of Commerce, Courtney Johnson (outgoing chair of the GHBC board), along with Eric Lyon, another member of the College of Business dean advisory board, and a former president of GHBC were also present.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, the PVAMU team met with staff from the U.S. embassy in The Bahamas. After a round of introductions, the embassy officials gave a detailed briefing on the state of the economy and business in The Bahamas, with a focus on trade relations with the U.S.

Regarding the role of higher education in the Bahamian economy, it was determined that there are existing potential opportunities for both PVAMU and TSU.

“It seems that the higher education sector in The Bahamas is weak,” Quddus said. “The University of Bahamas (UB; formerly the College of Bahamas) is the only four-year public institution with the main campus in Nassau (enrollment: 5,000) and a smaller campus in Freeport (enrollment 500), in Grand Bahama Island.”

The group also met a delegation from with the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce. A formal presentation was made by the Chamber describing opportunities for American business in various sectors of the Bahamian economy. The team also took a shuttle for a tour of the city, spending some time on the campus of the University of Bahamas. They met Provost Linda Davis and the dean of its College of Business, among others. Although they were not able to meet the dean of science, who is a PVAMU alumnus, they were able to discuss student exchange, travel abroad and recruitment opportunities. According to Quddus, students from The Bahamas have attended PVAMU since the 1970s. An important advantage PVAMU has is the large and relatively influential PVAMU alumni group who remain dedicated and engaged with their alma mater.

The PVAMU team also had the opportunity to enjoy dinner with the deputy Prime Minister, Peter Turnquest, a PVAMU College of Business alumnus in accounting, who is also the second-highest elected official in the Bahamian government.

Finally, on Friday, Dec. 7, the team traveled to Freeport, the manufacturing center of the country. Their first stop was Buckeye, a $6 billion global energy company that has a major refinery in the tax-free zone of the city. A number of staff spoke on various aspects of the company, and the PVAMU team was then given a bus tour of the facility, which has received major investments in recent years. They also toured the container facility, which is one of the largest in the region, and the Port, which is another large and busy facility.

“To conclude, clearly, there are interesting opportunities that should be explored given the strong brand recognition of Bahama as an important tourist destination, a functioning democracy, good security, and the proximity to the United States,” Quddus said. “Given the open door policy of the government, it will be relatively easy to secure approvals from the Bahamian government to bring in higher education programs such as an Executive MBA to the capital. Presently, there are no visible American university programs in Bahamas, but there is a strong demand for engineers and IT professionals and for young people who can serve as managers and business professionals on the cruise ships and hospitality industry.”

By Emilia Benton