Thursday, May 3, 2001

Kauai sugar mill
auction nets money
from memories

A bittersweet day for
former workers, the event
closes a chapter

By Anthony Sommer

LIHUE >> Bidders and mourners packed the ballroom at Kauai's Radisson Resort for more than 10 hours yesterday as 1,468 vehicles and pieces of equipment from Amfac/JMB's two defunct sugar mills were auctioned.

No one could remember the hotel's parking lot being that crowded. The vehicles ranged from new BMWs to ancient, dented and rusted pickup trucks.

When bidding began at 10 a.m., almost 500 registered bidders were on hand. Another 150 from around the world were bidding live via the Internet.

The numbers were expected to grow substantially through the long day as those who made their purchases left and others interested only in items far down the list arrived.

Ross Pollack, an auctioneer for DoveBid Business Auctions, said more than 800 people inspected the equipment in the three days before yesterday's auction.

Some of the equipment from Lihue Plantation and Kekaha Sugar Co., which were shut down in November, was specially built for the sugar industry.

But many of the bidders were from Hawaii contracting and landscaping companies and were hoping to get good deals on machinery such as bulldozers and backhoes.

Present and planning to bid on a large number of sugar-related items was the top management of Gay & Robinson sugar company.

Gay & Robinson is the sole surviving sugar operation on Kauai and, with Alexander & Baldwin's Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. on Maui, one of two remaining in the state.

Gay & Robinson took over the leases of state land formerly used by Amfac/JMB's Kekaha Sugar Co.

Ian Kennett, president and general manager of Gay & Robinson, said his company needs the equipment to continue growing sugar on the additional land.

The two mills are being sold separately by Aaron Equipment Co. They are expected to be dismantled and removed from Kauai by the buyers.

"We've had interest and we're talking to people," was all Michael Cohen of Aaron Equipment would say of prospective buyers.

Cohen has been involved in many liquidations and said he finds every one to be a sad event.

"It's really like a funeral," he said. "There will be people showing up during the day just to see what happens to a piece of equipment they may have operated for years. It's a closure for them."

"The fact is, it's better we're holding the auction here at a resort rather than at one of the closed plants. That would have been very hard on many people."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin