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America's Cup will benefit us all

Wind in our sails: the America's Cup will boost the Bermudian economy

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them” — Dalai Lama

The announcement of Bermuda being selected back in December 2014 to host the 2017 America’s Cup has Bermuda now experiencing the positive effects.

Approximately 200 America’s Cup families now live and work in Bermuda. That is an increase in homes being rented, particularly in the western end of the island. Hundreds of thousands of dollars per month is going to Bermudians through rents. Vehicles have been purchased that need to be filled with petrol and maintained. In addition, the grocery and retail sectors are benefiting, as are mobile phone companies, Belco and small businesses.

This economic activity is assisting with Bermudians being hired to meet the new demands that these families have created and makes it possible for the Government to collect additional revenue through taxes.

We have seen Butterfield and Vallis send out a request for Bermudian workers to deal with the expected high demand for food requirements for the 85 superyachts that will converge on our island.

Hotels are expected to be full of guests, which will require more employment. Vacation homes have been booked solid for the May-June event. Tour boat operators are being booked solid. Additional cruise ships will be coming to St George’s and Hamilton.

Transportation services have seen increased bookings. Taxi and minibus owners are preparing for the busiest summer in a decade or more. Our Bermudian ambassadors are all expecting the chance of a lifetime to capitalise on this historic event being held on our shores.

Recently, I had a brief conversation with a Bermudian in the florist business who had just signed contracts that will increase sales exponentially at their place of business. This is just another example of the many opportunities taking place for Bermudian small businesses in expectation of this event. Restaurants, retail in Hamilton, Dockyard and St George’s are preparing for the event by hiring Bermudians.

However, Chris Furbert has declared that the Bermuda Industrial Union is prepared to derail this event for all of us if the Government does not meet his two demands: renewing the Reverend Nicholas Genevieve-Tweed’s work permit and government withdrawal of the airport legislation.

Let’s not for one moment believe that Furbert is bluffing. Bermudians should recognise this was no idle threat. Furbert will, and is prepared to, do the unthinkable.

At a time when Bermuda needs all of us to pull together for the collective good of the country, there is a threat to our reputation and future as a jurisdiction that is stable and a good place to conduct business. Let’s not forget we have other significant events on the agenda, such as global triathlon events slated for 2018 through to 2020 with the International Triathlon Union World Series.

If we think about it soberly, this is the time when black Bermudians, especially union workers in the hotels and transport services, have the opportunity to benefit financially through full employment and overtime to deal with the demands of visitors to the island. However, their leader is prepared to ruin their livelihoods over a non-Bermudian and an airport project that he disagrees with, but has not articulated in two years that he has an alternative.

Bermuda, we need to be united against any threat to derail this event as it gets closer. Whether you agree with the America’s Cup or not, we must remain united in putting our best foot forward in making this event the best we can make it. Given the right results, our genuine Bermudian hospitality and natural beauty, the America’s Cup could be held here again in 2019. That means our economy remaining topped up and stable, creating jobs, businesses, careers and hope for countless numbers of Bermudians.

To paraphrase the words of the Dalai Lama, if you cannot or will not help AC35 to be a success then do not hurt the opportunity for others.

Vic Ball is a government senator and the senate spokesman for education and home affairs