Creation of mega ICT spaces not good business - realtor
Sheldon Wiliams, Staff Reporter
Carlene Sinclair, president of the Realtors Association of Jamaica, said local developers and investors are apprehensive to support the construction of large enough office spaces to accommodate foreign information and communication technology (ICT) players because it may be bad for business.
"Because of how fragile the industry can be, developers in Jamaica are not going to borrow money from the bank and build a huge building of, say, 30,000 to 50,000 square feet and don't know how soon they will rent it," she said.
Her comments follow a pronouncement by Phillip Paulwell, minister of science, technology, energy and mining; that Jamaica's failure to construct sufficient business-ready office space is stifling growth in the local information and communication technology/business processing outsourcing (ICT/BPO) industry.
"You are talking about interest rates and parking. You are talking about two to three acres of land that they will have to own and then turn around and construct 30,000 to 50,000 square feet of state-of-the-art building and then you hope the business will come," she added.
She emphasised several pull factors that constantly attract foreign investment, but said they are no comfort for local business moguls who continue to hold out.
"Jamaica itself, geographically, is a good place for ICT and we speak the language English and have great infrastructure like the Internet, where it is readily available, unlike in some countries. But how do you get developers who have been burnt by FINSAC to commit?" she asked
"ICT can dry up. You can come in now, but there is no certainty that you will be here in five years' time," she added.
Francis Kennedy, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, attributed the trepidation to, among other things, high building costs and the absence of buildings that are designed on an open office system.
"The type of office spaces that ICT persons want are open offices. They don't want any private offices and there are only a few of those offices in Jamaica now, " he shared.
"Building costs in Jamaica are very high after you go through all the permissions and everything else, and a lot of these ICT people are not willing to pay the rentals based on a new building. To rent a new building is much higher," he added.
Another deterrent, Kennedy said, is the short-term occupation by ICT investors. He said on average they will occupy a space for five years and then move on, but investors are desirous of at least a 10-year tenure so that they are able to make back their money.