Dear Source,
Some people may know me, and some may not. My name is Patrick Bayard, and I am an owner of the Sea Chest and Red Hook Ace Hardware. St. Thomas has been my home since 1969.
With the coming of Home Depot's 126,000-square-foot store and garden center to the territory, I may potentially suffer some kind of backlash in my businesses. However, my take on these events is far different than some. I know that no matter what happens with the big boxes invasion of the island, I will use my abilities as a businessman and a former military man to determine my best course of action, and I am confident that no matter the difficulties, and as I approach retirement, I will survive.
Now that the veil of secrecy has been lifted and Home Depot and the people that are determined to bring it to the island are coming out officially to declare themselves, I will dedicate all my efforts, along with my partners, to keeping our businesses open in order to maintain the employment of our full-time employees along with the same health benefits now in place for them. I am confident that with their help we will achieve this goal. This is, after all, a free country open to all, and I as an individual cannot stop the megastore, and the many more to come, as they run out of places to open in North America.
However, there are a few things that greatly concern me, among them the fact that our planners and prominent island families are ready to open St. Thomas to a company with annual sales 93 times the yearly budget of our territory without even making some demands of them to protect the people of the islands. To name a few:
– Full-time employment for the people who will work there, instead of 50 percent part-time employment, a la "big-box," which is the way most Home Depots on the mainland and in Puerto Rico staff their stores.
– Health insurance benefits for all employees, since they boast that they will bring 300 jobs to the islands. It would only be fair to provide a good health insurance program paid in full by the big box for all employees so that the hospital here does not have to lose dollars due to non-payment of bills. If the workers are insured, the bills will be paid for the most part by the insurance companies.
– Inland transport from the port to their warehouse using local truckers, at the same rate the truckers charge now. This would protect the local truckers who have made substantial investments in tractor heads to stay in business and take care of their families. Home Depot is known for its ruthlessness in dictating to its suppliers and service providers on the amounts it is willing to pay, to the point where those businesses cannot survive.
– An impact study by an independent firm to determine how traffic would be affected by this store and a mandate that any additional upgrading or expenses be incurred by Home Depot, instead of putting the burden on the government's shoulders, and thus on taxpayers. After all, 80 percent of our population lives and travels down this congested main road (Weymouth-Rhymer Highway) daily. Safety should be a main consideration, as should economics and the environment.
– Required investment in the local economy, if Home Depot is going to be "a good neighbor," by using local firms to provide services to its on-island store, unlike its usual mode of operation in other areas. Small businesses depend on other local businesses to survive. Examples: advertising, customs brokers, insurance, security, communications, computers, cleaning services etc. If the company awards local firms its business, jobs on island will not be sacrificed just to keep shareholders and owners in Atlanta happy.
– Income taxes on the profits of the St. Thomas Home Depot paid locally to protect the revenues of the V.I. government. Will the locally owned businesses that manage to "survive in the shadow" of Home Depot, as stated by Don Harrison, its public relations man, have enough left to contribute income taxes, if they just manage to survive? What about those that will simply fold, which represents a total loss of income tax revenues for the V.I. government?
On its application to the Planning and Natural Resources Department, Home Depot lists three local firms: its Realtor, its engineer and its attorney. Everyone else is stateside, including its archaeologists who have studied the soil samples for HPC. Surely there are some local people who could provide that service. How about the air conditioning, electrical, security, landscaping and interior finishing of the store? Will these services be provided by local firms?
I could go on and on, but enough said. I will only add one more thought: There are over 2,000 Home Depots in the United States, and many more big boxes, but there is only one St. Thomas, one Virgin Islands. Please don't give it away for nothing. Today, St. Thomas. Tomorrow, it could be St. Croix.
Patrick Bayard
St. Thomas

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to source@viaccess.net.
Publisher's note : Like the St. John Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email