'MoBay not a child anymore' - Time to provide more diverse employment base for residents, says Henry
Jamaica's tourism capital, Montego Bay, is moving to diversify its economic base in order to meet the changing demands of the new globalised world.
"It's not a shift from the tourism focus. It's a diversification of the economic base. Tourism is a mature industry, and it can provide so much and no more jobs, and we have to provide a diverse employment base for persons in Montego Bay. We are 35 years old, so we are not a child anymore," Gloria Henry told a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum hosted by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) to highlight investment opportunities ahead of next month's MoBay Expo 2015.
Henry, who is president of the MBCCI, was speaking about some of the issues to take centre stage at the expo scheduled for October 9-11.
The annual event, now in its 16th staging, will showcase the best business and investment opportunities on offer in the western city.
The chamber president explained that the viable options for reviving Jamaica's flat manufacturing sector would be among the issues addressed during MoBay Expo 2015.
She identified efforts by the Jamaica Public Service Company to bring down energy costs as well as the pending development of an LNG (liquefied natural gas) project in the free port as positive signals for new and emerging manufacturing opportunities of which Montego Bay is positioning itself to take advantage.
"We want to be first in pushing our manufacturing sector towards new growth opportunities in remanufacturing and digital manufacturing, areas we believe that they can compete in," Henry said. "These don't require a lot of space and a lot of people but require the use of technology and an educated workforce."
REBIRTH OF TEXTILE INDUSTRY
The chamber president disclosed that a rebirth of the textile industry is already under way, not in the traditional mass production format, but with more of a focus on value-added products, using improved technology.
"We have members within the chamber who are also in automotive and who are in industrial-type manufacturing. We have Cars-to-Go, who is looking at remanufacturing in automotive, so we are not just going to be focusing on textiles. It's going to be a diverse product range."
Henry cited the example of one small manufacturing company in the free zone which had enjoyed 54 per cent growth over the last quarter. This it did by producing garments through assembling and remanufacturing for export to the United States and several other markets.
"They have been able to grow because they have seen this as an opportunity to capitalise on higher wage costs in countries like Malaysia. So we want to use the manufacturing sector at the expo to say, with the inputs costs coming down with lower energy costs, and our fiscal growth target moving in the right direction, there is a new opportunity to focus on manufacturing," Henry explained.