How would you evaluate the contribution of the Montego Bay Free Zone to the development of the economy and Jamaica in general?
The Montego Bay Free Zone was created in 1985, and it is the second-largest employer in the city, behind tourism. The free zone has truly been the first mover in terms of economic development in this area, and over the years, it has consistently provided employment opportunities for thousands of Jamaicans. It has also spearheaded and stimulated innovation in telecommunications. We have also helped to build a platform for growth in e-commerce, training and development, and ICT, and the backward and forward linkages with the domestic economy have been enormous in the free zone. We have nurtured and developed an outsourcing industry, starting with garments under the Caribbean Basin Initiative program and eventually transitioning to data processing and back office support to contact centers to now moving up the value chain in knowledge process outsourcing. Many of the companies that now operate in Jamaica—both in the public and private sectors—either came through this free zone or are connected through the talents that this learning curve has produced within the incubator.
How do you see your role in developing human capital in the sector?
The free zone continues to support the development of human capital by working with various agencies, including the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), to diversify and expand the capabilities of the BPO cluster. We have worked with training institutions such as the Caribbean Maritime University, Montego Bay Community College, University of the West Indies, and University of Technology. More importantly, we have always maintained a partnership with the government's training agency, the Heart Trust NTA. We have distinct capabilities in certain areas of BPO, namely customer services, sales, receivables management, finance, and accounting, and we are gradually moving up the value chain in software development. In fact, the first software development company from Jamaica came from this free zone and is still located here.
What are your current projects to attract even more companies to the free zone?
We have a partnership with BPIAJ, of which I am president, to provide a 200-seat incubator. It is a full turnkey plug-and-play facility for new investors coming in or local entrepreneurs seeking to get into the business. Three years ago, we sought and received funding from the Inter-American Development Bank's Compete Caribbean Program to finance the development of the incubator. The incubator helps stimulate growth and diversity within the BPO sector as well as attracts foreign investors coming to Jamaica.
What would you say to investors coming to Jamaica?
Jamaica is one of the best places to do business. Jamaicans are productive and have outperformed many of their competitors in other parts of the world. We are open to providing all the support that investors need to be successful. Our government, especially Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is accommodating and foreign investment is a priority, particularly in global services, which is where we operate. The government has a growth target of 5% in four years, and this sector is one of the primary sectors that have been selected to support that growth. We have been growing consistently since 2012 and intend to continue growing. We have over 25,000 people employed within the sector currently, and there is significant development taking place in both the private and public sectors as we diversify and improve our talent capabilities, making sure we are ready to meet the demands of the 21st century.