Grand Bahama Island
The Early Days
The plan was to develop industry along with tourism.
In the 1960s and 70s, Freeport shot up almost overnight to become the Bahamas' second largest city, development was a long time coming. Indeed, most of the island has yet to experience it.
Away from Freeport/Lucaya, the island looks and feels little changed from 3 decades ago. Almost half of it is forested in Caribbean pine and few of the villages seem to have grown at all. However, the drive from Freeport to West End no longer requires a back brace now that the potholes are filled.
The Spaniards were the first to claim Grand Bahama Island, but they didn't like it much. The first explorers under Ponce de Leon grumbled continually about the ?gran baja mar? (?great shallow sea?) that surrounded the island. The name stuck and all the islands eventually were termed ?baja mar.?
Except for enslaving the native Lucayans to work the gold mines in Cuba and Hispaniola and using the landfall as an occasional stopover, the Spaniards ignored Grand Bahama.
Great Britain claimed it in 1670 after a group of colonists left Bermuda to establish their religious independence in Eleuthera, but hardly anyone was around to notice or care.
Except for a golden age of piracy that was extinguished by 1720, Grand Bahama remained among the least developed islands of the Caribbean region until just a few decades ago.
Credit (or blame) American lumberman Wallace Groves for the dramatic change. In 1946, Groves began managing a lumber operation where Freeport was later built.
Groves realized that more profit could be made from the land by a controlled development of industrial, tourist and real estate growth. At the time, the only settlement of note was at one tip of the island, West End. The rest was up for grabs.
Groves approached the Bahamian government with a plan to build Freeport, a town designed to cater to both tourists and industry. In return for investing and developing in a manner that would most benefit the Bahamian people, Grove's company, Grand Bahama Port Authority Ltd., was given 50,000 acres of land with an option to add 50,000 more.
In addition, the Port Authority wouldn't have to pay income, real estate, private property or capital gains taxes until 1985; a provision that now extends until 2054.