WEDNESDAY, OCT. 24: I was practically giddy when I heard the news that Peter Green and his two handsome sons, Alexander and Andrew were buying the Hamilton Princess.  There’s nothing like the winning combination of big cash and optimism with a pinch of moxie. Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, they made an investment in their own backyard. They bought local and despite the doom and gloom, they still believe in Bermuda.  

Believing in Bermuda and Bermuda’s potential is not the same thing as believing that the recession is near an end. The Green family did what smart business people do and took the long term view.

While an economic recovery is possibly three years away, the family has rightly anticipated that construction materials to renovate and expand the hotel will be less expensive in a competitive market. Despite our shrinking international business sector, the Hamilton Princess still attracts business executives for its convenient location. 

But perhaps the most compelling reason for purchasing the Princess is the Green family’s love of Bermuda since Alexander and Andrew are Bermudian.  Their commitment to Bermuda isn’t just about deal making. This is certainly not the case when other investors come to the island to look at properties.  There’s no personal history to help persuade them that investing in Bermuda feels right. It’s whether the numbers are right. 

  The real deal breaker from preventing hotel projects from going forward is the cost of labour. Bermudians, compared with their counterparts in the rest of the world, are paid handsomely. Yes, the cost of living is expensive in Bermuda but it is elsewhere, too.  When potential investors/developers contemplate building a new hotel in Bermuda the numbers don’t add up. 

Forget for a moment the actual cost of building a hotel which will be extraordinary, think about the day in day out costs of labour.  After you’ve bought the construction, factored in the out-of-this-world electricity costs, bought the soap, the towels, the bed linens and you name it, hotels then have to pay staff. Bermuda’s tourism season, at least right now, is too short to make the high cost of construction and staff worthwhile.

Want to see hotels get built?  This is a perfect time for union leaders to sit down with their members and discuss how they can really compete in a global market. It’s time to throw out the old assumptions about what you deserve and think about what you need and what could make you whole in this economy. It’s time to contemplate the value of zero. Zero in your bank account, zero jobs and zero ability to pay your bills.

Union leaders can use their skills and pre-negotiate with developers and investors on behalf of hotel, trade and construction workers for wages and benefits. 

This is an opportunity to work in partnership with developers and investors towards the mutual goal of getting Bermudians working.