Montego Bay Freezone, a haven for linkages
For decades, business linkages have grown successfully throughout the island, but perhaps nowhere are these linkages more pronounced than at the 30-year-old Montego Bay Free Zone, where numerous micro and informal enterprises thrive.
"The free zone has not only provided an enabling environment for the companies within the free zone, but also for the connection with business operators external to the free zone," said Gloria Henry, assistant vice president of operations and customer relations at the Montego Bay Free Zone.
"We support a number of different enterprises, for example, transportation operators, construction workers, service operators, ancillary workers and security operators ... . This is the extent of the far-reaching and wide-encompassing role of the free zone," added Henry, who was speaking during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held last Thursday in Montego Bay, St James.
There are approximately 7,000 workers currently employed at the Montego Bay Free Zone, making it a lucrative commercial hub, and, therefore, resulting in a range of both formal and informal businesses flocking to operate in its vicinity. These operators provide varying products and services to not only the employees, who commute to the free zone for work on a daily basis, but also to the businesses they are employed to.
mobile business operators
In addition, there are also mobile business operators that go into the free zone to sell their wares, such as items of clothing, footwear and varying accessories.
Though not having a formal relationship with the Montego Bay Free Zone, these businesses are nonetheless actively promoted by the organisation, as they are seen as beneficial to overall operations at the free zone.
"We support a wide sphere of benefits coming out of the free zone. When we have new investors coming in, we will present to them a listing of contractors so that they can go to them and utilise their services," said Henry.
"Some would have worked with us and proven their skills and developed their competencies. For instance, carpenters and plumbers, who would have worked with us and developed certain skill sets, we would recommend those."
Even as these micro enterprises are thriving, some large business operators inside the free zone are complaining of high overheads, mainly as a result of the cost of utilities.
"One of the challenges we have in the free zone is high energy cost. Currently, our utility cost is one of our biggest monthly recurring expenses, next to our employee payroll ... . All the tenants in the Montego Bay Free Zone should come together and implement an alternate (sic) energy source for the building within which we operate," said Davon Crump, CEO of Global Outsourcing Solutions.