How has PanJam evolved since its creation?
PanJam is an investment holding company listed on the Jamaica Stock Exchange and celebrating its 54th year. It was founded just after Jamaica's independence in 1962, capitalizing on nationalistic enthusiasm and positive growth prospects at a time when many opportunities were presenting themselves. My family has been in Jamaica since the mid-1700s and our fortunes have ebbed and flowed along with our country's. Over the years, we have remained invested in Jamaica and confirmed this commitment through our association with PanJam since its inception. In fact, one of the things that distinguishes PanJam from its peers is our continued optimism about Jamaica's future. We owe this success to our focus on a well-defined strategy, whereby we maintain a good combination of entrepreneurial risk-taking and conservative investment policies. We started life as a real estate management and development company, but have branched out to become an investment firm. PanJam has invested in Jamaican projects and businesses across a broad range of industries, predominantly real estate, financial services, hospitality, manufacturing, and tourism. Rather than taking controlling ownership positions, we became minority shareholders. Our current portfolio reflects our strong belief in Jamaica's potential, with growth expected in almost all economic areas. We are the second-largest shareholder of Sagicor Group Jamaica, giving us exposure to the financial services industry and are invested in Walkerswood, a sauces and seasonings manufacturer, as well as Chukka Caribbean Adventures, a regional tour company. Recently, we developed the Courtyard Marriott Hotel in the heart of New Kingston, and expect to complete work on the former Oceana Hotel, first built on the Kingston Waterfront in the 1970s.
Do you think that the waterfront and downtown Kingston could become more attractive for investments?
The public and private sectors have long talked about the restoration of downtown Kingston, which has suffered from neglect and a lack of investment. The downfall of the area was driven in part by events in the 1970s, the relocation of the port, and what I call the “suburbanization of the population," where some of the suburbs took the energy out of Kingston. Jamaica's lack of economic growth over the last 40 years has not provided the resources or created the will to really develop it since then. Therefore, we need to look for external sources of revenue to drive its rebuilding. At the moment, Kingston is primarily a business destination, though it is developing a tourism aspect. In some ways, it is the real Jamaica; Kingston was the home of Bob Marley and the birthplace of many elements of Jamaican culture. Cruise ships are the quickest way to introduce the city of Kingston back into the mix; the historic waterfront has been the gateway for the vast majority of people coming to Kingston over the centuries, including Port Royal, notorious for its role in the Caribbean's pirate era. My father, who founded PanJam, led the drive for a modern Jamaican business center, New Kingston. PanJam was also at the forefront of the development of residential real estate in the 1970s and 1980s. Building on that legacy, we are currently involved in the Kingston Restoration Company, which since the early 1990s has been at the heart of driving the agenda for the revitalization of the city.
What kinds of investments are you looking for in the coming years?
We have really struggled to diversify PanJam's risk profile, focusing on local businesses that have global opportunities and natural competitive advantages. Tourism is clearly something that we think Jamaica is able to capitalize on. We have wonderful people, a beautiful country, and a welcoming culture that are highly valued by international travelers. Additionally, Jamaica is well positioned relative to the Panama Canal and its associated shipping lanes, so the government-led logistics center initiative is a real prospect for growth and development. Business process outsourcing also has some opportunities, in addition to agriculture.