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Investors pitch $multimillion call centre for Naggo Head

Published:Wednesday | August 20, 2014 | 12:00 AM

A proposal for a US$15-million investment in the information and communication technology/business processing outsourcing (ICT/BPO) sector has been placed on the table by overseas investors seeking to construct 120,000 square feet of office space in Naggo Head in St Catherine.

Clive Fagan, chairman of the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ), told The Gleaner yesterday that his entity had identified a potential user, "who has been in Jamaica and has looked at the location" and is impressed.

"They want to be the first occupier of a 120,000-square foot facility out there. We did the original land preparation to show them the site, and we are in dialogue with them. This month, I will be taking to my board a proposal to have it done," Fagan said.

He told The Gleaner that the facility, when completed, would employ 4,000 people.

"We are having some discussions with the partners, which should be concluded in two to three weeks, and that will dictate the pace at which we pour concrete," he added.

Phillip Paulwell, minister of science, technology, energy and mining, has said Jamaica's failure to construct sufficient business-ready office space is stifling growth in the local ICT/BPO industry.

There are currently more than 14,000 persons employed in the ICT/BPO sector and JAMPRO has targeted the creation of 15,000 additional jobs within five years.

Fagan said a Fortune 500 company, which currently has business in Montego Bay, St James, is patiently waiting to occupy 67,000 square feet of factory space, which is currently occupied in the Second City.

"All we are waiting on is for it to be vacated," Fagan said, noting that the current occupiers, who are on a month-by-month contract, have been given notice to leave.

JA SHOULD SHARE BLAME

Former Industry and Commerce Minister Karl Samuda said major building contractors in Jamaica should share the blame for not creating enough space to accommodate members of the ICT/BPO sector.

Samuda described as "selfish and myopic" the attitude adopted by influential members in the private sector who controlled the construction sector when, as minister, he approached them with a proposal to construct ICT space.

"What Government should be doing is to seek international assistance for the construction of aspects of the facilities," he told The Gleaner.

"The chickens have come home to roost … . Without buildings, there can be no expansion of ICT throughout the country."

Samuda said that as a minister in the Bruce Golding-led administration, he made repeated attempts to secure joint-venture arrangements with members of the private sector for the creation of space for ICT.

"What we were asking of them is to enter into the agreement to build facilities, but we could not give any fiscal guarantees because of our fiscal situation," he told The Gleaner.

Samuda said the developers refused to make even the slightest effort and insisted that in order to go forward, the Government had to guarantee them revenue.

"That, in my view, displayed a lack of entrepreneurial courage, and now, after giving my experiences to Parliament, when this Government came to office, they persisted on giving the false impression that there was adequacy of space to accommodate the ICT sector," he complained.