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Gov’t Facilitates US$8.5 Million Investment in BPO Project

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Jamaica is well on the way to meetings its target of doubling the size of the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector by 2016.

The Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, through JAMPRO, and the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), have facilitated a US$8.5 million investment project between the owners of Barnett Tech Park in Montego Bay, St. James, and Kier Construction for the building of a 50,000 square feet facility on Lot Three of the park.

Speaking at the announcement and signing ceremony for the project, at JAMPRO’s New Kingston offices on Wednesday, November 27, Industry Minister, Hon. Anthony Hilton welcomed the development.

He noted that globally, BPO spending is expected to increase to over US$680 billion by the end of 2013 and reach US$1trillion by 2014.

The market is currently valued at US$300 billion, with the Caribbean and Latin American accounting for six per cent.

The Minister told the gathering of BPO interests and stakeholders that Jamaica has been making its name in the global space, with local players building a solid reputation for the country among clients, who have been capitalizing on the country’s strong competitive advantage as a leading nearshore destination.

Mr. Hylton noted that JAMPRO has been mandated to go for the “quick wins” as it seeks to be a catalyst for the medium to long-term development of the Information Communication Technology (ICT) and BPO sector.

“As a government, we are seeking to position this sector as the largest generator of jobs for Jamaica’s knowledge-based workforce. In support of this, JAMPRO has designated ICT investment attraction as its top priority,” he said.

He noted that the Barnett Tech Park investment brings the country even closer to its economic vision for the knowledge services sector, “which is ripe with opportunities”.

The Investment Minister congratulated Mark and Paula Kerr-Jarrett, owners and directors of the park, stating that, “your decision to invest in building out this tech park is delivering a strong message to the global investor community”.

In his remarks, Mr. Kerr-Jarrett informed that the tech park already has infrastructure in place, including dual broadband providers with fibre optic cabling and clean power supply. He explained that the tech park is part of a larger 400,000 acre development, which includes 1, 200 residential units.

The tech park has the capacity for 800,000 square feet of production space, which translates to 36,000 jobs on three shifts. The development can also accommodate 135,000 square feet of commercial services to support the operations of the park; as well as infant and toddler care services; canteen; doctor’s office; banking, recreation and fitness services.

The space has the potential to provide 10,000 seats on a single shift, and contribute $3.6 billion per annum for three shifts, as well as $10.8 billion per annum in direct taxes, the developer said. According to Mr. Kerr-Jarrett, the overall investment potential is US$96.8 million, which means there is room for multiple investors.

Meanwhile, President of JAMPRO, Diane Edwards, said the investment is an “inflection point” that would put the sector on a path to realising the vision of transforming Jamaica into a regional hub for ICT investments.

She said that attracting more entrepreneurs to the sector is essential to the agency’s ambition to double the number of jobs in the sector, predominantly held by young Jamaican knowledge-workers.

Ms. Edwards noted that there are 30 BPO firms currently operating in the island, employing nearly 14,000, full time employees, ranging from high school to university graduates.

She pointed that although Jamaica’s BPO industry is young, “some global industry watchers have indicated that Jamaica could aggressively push to address the growing needs of 15 per cent of the nearshore market business, and by doing so, we should be able to generate 29,000 jobs”. This means doubling the existing level of employment in the sector.

The JAMPRO head highlighted also, that each new position in the industry is estimated to generate US$65,000.

The governments’ goal is to make 1.2 million square feet available for BPO operations in Jamaica by 2016, to meet the growing demand for space.

Financing for the Barnett Tech Park facility is being provided by the DBJ through a US$20 million loan facility. The credit facility is funded from the PetroCaribe Fund, and is aimed at financing the construction of large, purpose-built ICT/BPO facilities, which are capable of generating significant employment.

Barnett Tech Park, which is solely dedicated to ICT/BPO operations, is already the site of Vistaprint, on 120,000 square feet of space.

By Alphea Saunders

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