Tyska: Tourister auction was opportunity lost
Editor's note: Bristol Marine and Rhode Island Marine Trades Association president Andy Tyska wrote this commentary in the wake of his firm's failed bid to acquire the old American Tourister mill at auction. The mill ultimately will be sold to a New Hampshire real estate developer.
The vision became clearer and clearer every day.
An aquaculture facility, unique to the region, through collaboration with Johnson and Wales University and Roger Williams University, creating a completely sustainable and traceable food source. The presence of a large brewery, creating significant local jobs. I could see the addition of a recently displaced, local high end restaurant. Education embedded in industry, a continuation of the results we have seen in Bristol by operating a facility to support boatbuilding, repair, and the region's maritime heritage. And the part of the vision, I couldn't shake, the sight of the tall ship Providence, tied alongside the new boardwalk providing access for the community to our State's greatest asset, Narragansett Bay.
I have been offered consoling words over my failed attempt at acquiring the American Toursiter facility, having been outbid by just $100,000. However I thought I would provide a little more perspective. As they say, everything happens for a reason.
My bid was originally for $1.25 million. In mostly $25,000 increments, the price quickly elevated to $2.0 million, in a heart pumping test of nerves at auction in Rhode Island's Superior Court. After a brief recess, I couldn't hope more that our next bid would be the one, the final, and highest. The bidding kept going, at $2.1M the rational minds of those on my team thought to let it go. I took over the actual bidding from our legal representation and personally continued to bid up to $2.5M.
Our competing bidder asked for a recess and removed themselves to a private room. It was during this time I thought of a few things. The vision that I had became overshadowed. My original anticipated cost of acquisition had just doubled from $1.25 million. I had a flashback to my first visit to Town Hall, when eye to eye contact was avoided in the zoning department, and standard inquires were met with referrals to the Town Solicitor. Although the Town Manager and Council were accommodating with their time and consideration of our vision, I was surprised when my request for a letter stating their support for my vision of maintaining and creating jobs was denied for fear of possible legal repercussions.
When the residential developer Brady Sullivan returned from recess and offered $2.6 million, it made sense, Warren still wasn't quite ready to commit to the idea of a real working waterfront. I decided to bid no higher and offer Mr. Sullivan congratulations.
The idea of "preserved use" is real. The goal is simple. A facility providing jobs like was originally intended for those that live in town and the surrounding communities. Although the direct benefits to the tax base are less than a residential facility, the effects on the community are much greater. We did it in Bristol. Where hundreds, years ago, worked at Minor Industries and the Carr-Fulflex facilities, after decades of abandonment, hundreds now see our reuse reflected in their weekly paycheck. It can be done in Warren. I offer two suggestions:
Fight for, not against
Refrain from expending precious time fighting against something. Instead, spend half the amount of time you would fighting, on efforts to support what you believe to be good. Your returns will be two fold, in the direction of forward progress.
It's better to act than not
A sad way to live and act, forever afraid of possible legal action, warranted or not, relating those actions towards that which is believed to be best. Those concerns about the actions you take will become new, possibly greater, concerns resulting from actions not taken.
I wore my lucky underwear on February 14, 2013. No, they did not have Valentine's Day hearts on them, but Four Leaf clovers. Upon returning from the auction I was convinced they did not work. Then as time passed, I realized maybe they did. I can now continue to invest in our existing business and look for opportunities where we can collaborate for long term job creation.