Computer City technician Antar Smith is staying upbeat despite losing his job because of the firm’s closure. *Photo by Raymond Hainey
Computer City technician Antar Smith is staying upbeat despite losing his job because of the firm’s closure. *Photo by Raymond Hainey

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 21: Computer City chief Craig Clark yesterday said he was “shocked” the announcement of the firm’s closure had turned into a political football.

He said: “I am aware of that, but it was certainly never intended. It kind of shocked me that it turned into that.”

Mr Clark was speaking after he blamed the closure of the Hamilton firm and the loss of nine jobs on the economic downturn.

He added that the payroll tax hike of 2010 had been “a turning point” with corporate clients downsizing or leaving, even though the increase was later axed.

Mr Clark said he had been surprised by claims on some websites that the announcement was timed to “make the PLP look bad”.

He added: “That’s just ludicrous – this was an apolitical, bottom-line business decision. People said it was sad we couldn’t stay open until Christmas. But I couldn’t promise to be able to pay everybody if I waited that long. It’s a very sad thing for everyone here.”

The OBA and the PLP clashed after Hamilton’s Computer City announced its closure at the weekend with the loss of nine jobs.

The OBA said the firm’s closure was as a result of bad Government policies – but the PLP hit back and singled out new Front Street restaurant RED as an example of “government policies that supported the opening of that business”.

Mr Clark, who is not a member of any political party or involved in politics, said: “I don’t resent the OBA and PLP supporters trying to make mileage out of this – but we’re just doing what’s necessary from a business point of view.

“I would vote for who I thought would be able to do the best for Bermuda. Obviously, both parties are going to claim that right now.”

Computer City technician Antar Smith, who has worked for the company for a total of seven years with a break to attend a college course paid for by the firm, was putting a brave face on the news.

He said: “It’s kind of sudden, but I try to stay optimistic – one door closes, another one opens. A lot of people are looking out for me and who want to see I do land on my feet.”

But he added: “When everyone is out of a job, it’s very hard to deal with.”

RED co-owner Rick Olson said Government support for the business amounted to “they came and cut the ribbon”.

But he added: “What we do appreciate, which everyone in the restaurant business appreciates, was the waiving of the payroll tax.

“It certainly didn’t influence my decision to get into that business, but it does help. It was a good rent in a prime location – nothing to do with the economy in Bermuda, that’s for sure. That’s a hindrance.”

Mr Olson added: “I’m sick of hearing all the politicking back and forth – that’s from both parties.

“They should be worried about the big picture – creating jobs, getting people back to work, hotels and the tourism industry, not about what I’m doing.”

Ronnie Viera, president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, said: “I’m not sure it’s helpful to politicize it. It’s tough times and acknowledging that companies and businesses have opened is a fair comment.

“But, as I look at it, it’s the jobs that have been lost in the last six weeks which is a real concern – every job lost is an income withdrawn from the economy.

“Hopefully, other businesses will open, but it’s a tough economy right now and other businesses are suffering – there’s not a meeting I go to that I don’t hear that other businesses are teetering on the edge of closure.

“It’s an election period and parties are going to do what they need to do. We just have to get through it and hope 2013 brings a recovery.”