By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Long Island Chamber of Commerce’s former president yesterday told Tribune Business he had “no regrets” about selling the well-known Flying Fish Marina, as it had enabled him to pay off “seven figure debt” and focus on his Shell franchise.
Confirming the 22-slip marina had been sold to a US investor, Mario Cartwright, the ex-DNA candidate for in the island during the 2012 general election, also took a swipe at both PLP and FNM governments, accusing them of merely “paying lip service” to aiding Bahamian entrepreneurs.
Arguing that administrations of both colours could have done more to help Flying Fish, rather than just congratulate himself and his wife on their endeavours, Mr Cartwright said the property - which had a staff of five when he sold it - had “potential” to be expanded into a true boating/yachting destination.
Disclosing that he had been attempting to sell the Flying Fish Marina for three years prior to successfully closing a deal this June, Mr Cartwright indicated that he and his wife decided to exit because they felt they had taken it as far as they could.
“There were a number of reasons,” he explained to Tribune Business. “I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, but my wife and I worked there seven days a week for 12 years. It’s a good business, and we did reasonably well.
“But we found marina construction was reasonably expensive. That site has potential. It can be a destination - somewhere for boaters to go. We developed a reputation up the entire east coast of the US by doing a great job.
“We felt that while we could qualify for more funding, it was best to sell to an investor who has the means to develop it [Flying Fish] to its full potential.”
Mr Cartwright told Tribune Business he would have liked to sell the Flying Fish Marina, known as the last/first port of call in the Bahamas depending on whether the vessel is heading north or south, to a Bahamian. However, no local buyers presented themselves.
He added that 97 per cent of marinas in this nation were owned by non-Bahamians, with Flying Fish competing against the likes of Emerald Bay, Staniel Cay and Hawk’s Nest in Cat Island.
“We were very careful who we sold it to,” Mr Cartwright said.
“This investor has the means, he has the know how to grow it. We’re satisfied we’ve sold it to someone who will do right by the site.
“I have no regrets. I have faith in the new owner; they’re out of Texas.”
Mr Cartwright added that the presence of a major shipping lane just outside Clarence Town Harbour, frequented by both commercial and pleasure boat traffic, meant Flying Fish’s location provided the basis for expansion by itself.
Suggesting that the new owner planned to double Flying Fish’s 20-plus slip capacity, he told Tribune Business that the sales proceeds had cleared the couple’s debts and left them with potential capital to invest in their other business interests.
“We were in debt to the tune of seven figures. We paid off the debt and had some money left over,” Mr Cartwright said.
“I’ve held the franchise for Shell since 2000, and we’re focused now on running the two gas stations and wholesale depot.”
He added, though, that he and his wife felt let down by successive Bahamian governments when it came to assisting them and other local entrepreneurs.
“We are good and decent people, but they could have done a bit more. Instead of always coming down and saying: ‘You’re doing great’, they could have said: ‘What can we do to help you?’ They never did. That goes to Hubert Ingraham and Perry Christie,” Mr Cartwright told Tribune Business.
“We felt we were being treated like illegal aliens. We felt the illegal Haitians had more influence than we did.”
Suggesting that successive governments had been far more focused on foreign investors and their needs, at the expense of Bahamian entrepreneurs, Mr Cartwright said: “We love the Long Island lifestyle. It’s a good place to live and we can’t complain.
“My complaint about the Government is that they can do a lot more. They give a lot of lip service to helping Bahamian entrepreneurs, but there’s no action.”