Where is it melting?

You could probably forgive anyone who just experienced the “polar vortex” in the US for thinking that perhaps global warming might be a tad exaggerated.  Every state in the union was pounded with severe freezing temperatures and snow (yup, even Hawaii has mountains) leaving many Americans to wonder where exactly is the ice melting?  

In Bermuda there won’t be snow and ice. Instead we’ll brace ourselves for the firestorm known as “commercial immigration.” You can already hear the voices warning that the OBA is selling Bermuda.  No, actually they’ll say that government is giving Bermuda away and that there will be nothing left for future generations.  These are the same voices that have probably told you that international business has ruined Bermuda and that it’s international businesses’ fault that we lost our way with our tourism product. They conveniently forget that Government can’t pay its bills and that we have an unprecedented number of Bermudians
receiving assistance. 

Empty city

As I drive through the thriving metropolis known as Hamilton, parking bays are empty, stores are empty and it’s so quiet it feels like a public holiday every day of the week. I am left to ponder how bad could it be to have a couple of hundred members of the one per cent park themselves in Bermuda.  

Would they buy homes?  Check. Renovate those homes? Buy cars? Check.  Check. Would they shop in our grocery stores, retail shops, dine at restaurants, need plumbers, electricians, gardeners, pay for cellphones, cable television and other services?   Create jobs? The answer is yes. Would they take your job away? No.

Take a look at what has been going on in Jay Peak, a small ski resort in Vermont. For many years, Jay Peak enjoyed a healthy and dedicated tourist community albeit one that relies on snow. As more visitors abandoned the quaint town for the well groomed trails of the West and chi-chi boutique hotels, Jay Peak found itself with fewer guests, empty hotel rooms and unemployment.   Sound familiar?

Rather than lying down in the middle of the old town and watching their investment go down the pike, resort owners Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros are transforming the
resort with a little known US visa programme (EB-5) that gives foreign investors permanent residency (green card) and a path to citizenship. The programme requires a minimum of one million dollars of investment in urban areas but only a half million dollar investment in distressed rural area.  

Already the resort has built two large hotels, an ice skating rink and a 60,000 water park with retractable roof that will enable the resort to attract year round visitors. To date over 500 foreign investors are participating in the Jay Peak programme and have raised nearly 300 million of an 865 million dollar development project which will also include expansion of the ski resort, a biomedical research firm and further development of the waterfront. The result?  Jobs.

Could this work in Bermuda?  It might. What won’t work is drawing a line in the pink Bermuda sand that commercial immigration won’t even be considered by the Opposition. Minister for Home Affairs, Michael Fahy took a step in the right direction by hosting a public meeting on Tuesday evening with Madeleine Sumption, a senior policy analyst from the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC Cathedral Hall was standing room only during Ms Sumption’s presentation on the pros and cons of various worldwide commercial immigration programmes already in place.   It was a balanced and informative programme without personal agenda.

Opportunity?

Why not explore a potential opportunity? Last year the New York Times (December 30, 2012) reported that one potential foreign investor is Steve Green (not that Mr Green!) an Englishman living in- wait for it, wait for it, Bermuda!  

I don’t know if Mr Green made the investment in Jay Peak but imagine what his money could do for Bermuda. 

I’m glad no one turned patriarch Sir Harold Mitchell away back in the 1950’s as there would be no Green family today to invest in Bermuda’s future.

There were a lot of important questions asked at the meeting the other night but there was also an unmistakable polar vortex resistance by some to really listen and consider the possibilities for Bermuda.   Maybe it will snow in Bermuda after all.