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Jamaican Business Leaders Make Case for Bolstering Manufacturing

Professor Densil Williams

Professor Densil Williams

Jamaica’s manufacturing sector can contribute to sustainable growth because it contains high value added activities, says professor Densil Williams.

As far as the academic is concerned, the fundamental issue the country faces is finding the right areas to focus on.

Even then, Williams questions whether it suits Jamaica.

“Orthodox economics say we really shouldn’t manufacture anything in Jamaica,” said the deputy executive director of Mona School of Business and Management at the University of the West Indies.

Those who manufacture locally encounter significant challenges.

“We have a very punishing interest rate; inescapable and exorbitant energy fees, very punitive labour laws, a benign doing business environment and security costs,” Williams said.

Still agriculture and tourism can generate growth, as long as there’s capital for the sectors and there are no adverse weather conditions. But those sectors lead to anemic growth, he told guests at the National Bakery Bold Ones of Manufacturing Panel Discussion on Monday.

Gary “Butch” Hendrickson, the chairman of Continental Baking Company, owners of National Bakery agrees.

“My biggest fear is energy, not the price of it, but whether we will have it around,” he said. “Currently our equipment in Jamaica is so old, that any failure at any of the major units can cause cascading failure.”

The UWI professor reasoned that the group of Bold Ones who decided to become manufacturers had gone crazy.

“Why is it that they didn’t take their money and put it into securities?” he said. “Even government papers have less risk than setting up a manufacturing plant.”

Nonetheless, the Bold Ones, along with hundreds of other entrepreneurs who are a part of the manufacturing sector will still collectively contribute to the economy, Williams declared.

Hendrickson’s company invested $30 million in this year’s Bold Ones program to help manufacturers gain recognition and promote their company and products.

“One of the main things with new businesses is that they never have the money for is marketing,” he said, adding that the Bold Ones program was born out of that need.

“The goal is not to try and save the Bold Ones’ lives, but give them the collateral that they can use to market their companies,” said Hendrickson.

Bold Ones of manufacturing are Jamaicans who have created new companies that manufacture products from indigenous material, employ at least five persons, and are tax compliant. This years group include Irie Roc, Bartley’s All In Wood, D’NexStep, EcoFarms, Journey’s End, Lifespan, Lincoln’s, and Springvale.


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