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Reinventing Cotton Bay, Eleuthera (Nassau Guardian)
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Posted by:Jul 22nd 2005, 07:09:32 pm
Fig Tree News Team

Reinventing Cotton Bay

Franklyn Wilson presides over the largest investment by Bahamians


When is cotton a verb? Cotton, usually a noun, is the fibre that's used to weave the cloth that makes most of the clothing we wear. In recent memory, no cotton of consequence was grown in The Bahamas. But in developing the name for a resort, the original owners of Cotton Bay Estates in South Eleuthera saw cotton as a verb "to cotton" meaning to befriend, to get along with self and nature. Cotton Bay, according to Franklyn Wilson, is wherever people are at peace with each other and nature. This definition makes Cotton Bay ubiquitous, but the philosophy is being ardently projected and promoted by the Eleuthera properties Limited, which recently broke grounds for an exclusive resort community unlike any other in The Bahamas.

The groundbreaking was the finest hour for Franklyn Wilson, chairman of the company, who reveals that the Cotton Bay Development a commitment of $300 million investment over five years is historic as it is the single largest investment in resort estate ever by a Bahamian-led company.

Eighty per cent Bahamian owned, Mr Wilson terms the split "a wonderful model." Says he: "The late Prime Minister Sir Lynden made mention of this when we acquired the property back in 1986 as a wonderful model where Bahamians lead the way in terms of doing something like this because it takes Bahamians to bring the energy, the passion, and commitment. We've gone through the process of conceptualizing what is to be done ... and to do that, we went to one of world's preeminent firms of architects, Wimberly Allyson Tong & Doo," he states.

Based in California, they are designers of Ritz Carltons of the world and locally have done the architectural work for the refurbishment of the Ocean Club on Paradise Island.

The architecture is not without Bahamian input however. Trevor Bridgewater the chief architect for Arawak Homes, along with Andre Cartwright, Gus Ferguson and Dennis Miller, have worked with the California firm for some 15 months to make sure, in Mr Wilson's word, "the resort reflects the best of The Bahamas and the best in the world."

The firm of Mick Dean and Roger Lewis, respectively have done the structural and electrical engineering design. Quantity surveying by Chavez Chisolm.

Construction of a 73-room, 5-star hotel starts in two weeks, and 114 estate lots are reserved for a gated community comparable to Lyford Cay, Old Fort Bay and Ocean Estates. With houses averaging $2 million dollars, the development would attract wealthy people from several countries, Mr Wilson says.

"The hotel will be up to the standard of the Ocean Club, Four Seasons the finest resorts in the world," Mr Wilson discloses.

The development is under the strictest of architectural codes. "We've walked every lot and have told people where they can build. They cannot take up any trees on the area of their lot where they cannot build," Mr Wilson says.

"Let's say, for example, if we sell you an acre lot, and we've designed a building envelope on that for 12,000-square feet house, the rest of the property surrounding that house, other than putting down a swimming pool, you cannot interrupt or interfere with nature that surround it."

To cement its natural motif Cotton Bay has formed an alliance with the Bahamas National Trust and the Audubon Society. Its membership in the latter commits it to making the resort the most nature-sensitive in The Bahamas.

"As a result of what we're doing, the Bahamas National Trust has looked at Eleuthera to create a national park, and we have agreed to partner with them to see that this happens," he adds.

As a spin-off, the operations manager of the project Wim Steenbakkers has for the past several months, being conducting business clinics for would-be entrepreneurs in areas such as craft, restaurant operation and fishing.

South Eleuthera, which in recent time has seen little economic activity, can now look forward to a real boom. Already 30-odd residents have been employed by Cotton Bay. Says Mr Wilson: "We have already had an impact. We have benefited because of the success of Kerzner, which has caused The Bahamas to gain credibility with a lot of hoteliers around the world. Kerzner's success helped us. Our success is making it easier for other developers. We will be a catalyst for other developers just as Kerzner has been to us."

The reinvention of Cotton Bay may prove not only to be a catalyst for other Bahamian investors, but a salvation for the people of South Eleuthera.

Biographical sketch- Franklyn Wilson

He is a baby boomer having been born after the end of World War II in 1945 and after the end of the Great Depression. Both of these events were presided over by U.S President Franklin Roosevelt. His parents, the late Stanley A. Wilson Sr., and Muriel Della Wilson, no doubt were admirers of president Roosevelt and named their last child and second son, Franklyn Roosevelt Wilson.

He grew up in Ross Corner

And graduated from St John's College. He attended Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he earned a Bachelor's Degree with Honours.

In 1970 he qualified as a chartered accountant, and the following year along with a secretary and two students, he started the firm of F. R. Wilson & Co., Chartered Accountants.

And under his leadership, the firm evolved into Deloitte & Touche and when he withdrew from the partnership in 1994, it was the largest firm of chartered accountants in The Bahamas.

His visionary leadership led to the formation of Junior Achievement (Bahamas) of which he served as the founding chairman. He maintained this role for ten years, during which period JA became the most successful programme outside of the United States. Thousands of young people are alumni of the programme, which is focused on teaching the principles of private enterprise.

Outside of his practice as a chartered accountant, Mr Wilson has developed a wide array of businesses. Chief among these were formed by or as a result of 'The Sunshine Boys.'

Shortly after the Bahamas achieved political independence in 1973, a group of young Bahamians, each of humble origins, decided that it was important to the national development process to show that national could own and manage big businesses by pooling of resources and otherwise co-operating one with another.

With Mr Wilson as the most constant link, the Sunshine Boys have gone on to create or manage businesses including, but not limited to Arawak Homes Ltd., (which has delivered more homes to Bahamian families then any company in history). Sunshine Insurance (Agents & Brokers) Ltd., Royal & Sun Alliance Insurance (Bahamas) Ltd., In-Flight Kitchens Ltd., Purity Bakery Ltd., Snack Food Wholesale, Eleuthera Properties Ltd. and Freeport Oil.

He has been an activist in many aspects of Bahamian national life. In 1972, at the age of 25, he was elected to Parliament and he remains one of the youngest people to have ever been so elected. For more than two decades, he has served on the Finance Committee of the Anglican Church. For service as a financial advisor he has been honoured by trade unions ranging from the BCPOU, Hotel Worker's Union and The Public Services Union to the Musicians Union.

Within the Private Sector he served as the founding chairman of The Bahamas Chapter of the Young Presidents' Organisation and some 20 years later, as the founding chairman of the Bahamas Chapter of the World's Presidents' Organisation.

Over a period of 30 years, Wilson has written and spoken extensively on the economy of The Bahamas.

Increasingly, Wilson has involved himself in important organisations and causes outside of The Bahamas. He sits on The Board of Trustees of Elmira College in Elmira, New York and on The Board of Directors of Junior Achievement International.

He is married to former Magistrate, Sharon Wilson and the couple has three children - Franon, Sharlyn and Sharon Rosel

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