He has been involved in business from the costal waters of St Lucia to Caribbean regional trade, expanding into the challenging waters of global shipping. Eventually, he returned to his island home as a businessman opening many successful business ventures in areas which provide many competitive economic avenues for St Lucia and our region as a whole.
This autobiography is of a life filled with many encounters and challenges “at sea” and in “many oceans” of innumerable currents. Michael recounts how he has been able to overcome his many adversities with pragmatism and a deep philosophy of life embracing successes and some failures, yet filled with optimism and forward projections for his country St Lucia.
He exposes us to his life’s struggles, and vicissitudes, and he seeks to impress upon our youth the importance of hard work. As Guy Ellis puts it ” His is a story of vision, hard work, bold decision-making and enterprise. It is a story which should inspire his countrymen to the heights of personal and corporate achievements”
He relates that his mother started a baking business through a loan of thirty (30) pounds and that at the age of seventeen (17) his father entrusted him with his boating business carrying passengers and cargo “down our coast to Soufriere”. I recall taking a “freeness” ride on one of his boats during my vacations. Together with his brother David, they built a boat which they called Michael David. He relates that it became his first love and “laid the foundation” for everything he earned in life.
From costal boat enterprises he ventured into the inter-island passenger and trade business to Martinique and Guadeloupe and later carrying several tons of pumice fortnightly from Dominica to St Thomas and fifteen thousand tons of compressed cardboard to Venezuela. Michel’s abounding vision took his shipping business ventures to the international arena to include the Gulf States, the Pacific, Latin America, Africa and the United States to mention just a few of his global exploits.
He quickly acquired the knowledge and art not only in shipping but also in the buying and selling of ships selling twenty one (21) ocean going vessels during his shipping career. In all this, he expounds that “Hard work does not kill” and that it is “the only path to a healthy and fruitful life”
After doing business in the wide uncertain and challenging world oceans, Michael found expression in business enterprises, filling a need in many areas and transformed/expanded St Lucian business ethos from buying and selling for the most part, into the building of shopping malls, supermarkets, and warehouses. This aspect of his fertile, creative and expansive mind flourished just as his “ocean of experiences”.
His first supermarkets were Gablewoods Mall in Castries and one in Vieux Fort with over 60 outlets combined; adding to that the Rodney Bay Heights Shopping Center with a 200 seat cinema which now houses the International School of St Lucia; the lease of the ground floor of the government commercial parking to accommodate a supermarket; the building of major warehouses at Cul de Sac and the establishment of the first Mega Store at Choc similar to Sam’s club.
Like his exploits at sea, he ventured further with supermarket engagements in St Vincent and Grenada bringing his total supermarket involvement to over fourteen (14) and employment of over four thousand persons. The supermarket investment in Grenada was the first shopping mall on the island (Spice Island Mall) catering to seven thousand students at St Georges University.
But that was not all, for, together with business associates, he brought to St Lucia the largest steel manufacturing plant within the OECS named Caribbean Metals producing different roof designs and colours of roof aluzine material. That company fabricated structural steel buildings of all sizes for building columns and foundations with an annual importation of over 1,000 tons of material per year. He also was involved in the purchase and operation of four (4) catamarans for the tourism sector.
His autobiography is not without his views on St Lucia’s internal politics which I will leave to the reader to digest and interpret. Suffice it to say that, like most St Lucians and Caribbean leaders, he has had the highest regard for Sir John Compton and the advisors who worked with him in building of St Lucia. He nevertheless expresses his sadness over the political events before and after his passing
From his writings, the story to St. Lucians is that regardless of the working strata, trade or business of our parents or grand-parents, be they bakers, shoe makers, market vendors, jewelers, teachers, fishermen, estate owners etc., we all have a part to play in the development of our country. My analogy to Michael’s story is that if, like a good baker, we add yeast to flour and water and provide the necessary energy we can make our product rise for the sustenance of our people.
I recommend this book to our leaders of today and tomorrow, so that we may digest a personal story filled with accomplishments, hope and vision for our country, and the fact that there is “Room at the Top” for all of us.
This book is available at The Book Yard, The Star
* Former Ambassador of St Lucia to the UN, OAS, and US