Hanover hurting - Closed factories shut off job opportunities for thousands
The number of factories lying idle for decades inside the Haughton Industrial Estate in Lucea, Hanover, while youth unemployment in the parish is reportedly at an all-time high, is a source of grave discontent for some key stakeholders in the parish.
The Peter Powell Kites Factory (before that the Lannon Baseball Factory), the Karla Garment Factory, and the Lucea Cocoa Fermentary, which suffered structural damage during Hurricane Gilbert, are all empty and idle.
A once-busy turmeric factory was divested several years ago and is now closed, while the building that housed the Jockey garment factory has been closed since the United States-headquartered company pulled out of the country in 2008.
"The area is supposed to be an industrial estate. That's why they moved the JPS (Jamaica Public Service Company), the public works, and the police headquarters there," said vice-president of the Veteran Farmers Alliance and Hanover historian Collin Johnson.
"It had come up for discussion in the late '80s and '90s as part of a plan to extend the town of Lucea westwards. I don't know where it went haywire or how the discontinuation took place.
"We should not only want to train Jamaicans to be subservient to tourists in this country as what is happening at Kenilworth. We need to train them, as they did at Cobbla Trade Training Centre in Manchester, to be tradesmen in this end of the island because for most of the high-end jobs in the hotel industry, the labour is coming from central and eastern Jamaica," added Johnson.
2009 REPORT FINDINGS
A 2009 report titled Unattached Youth in Jamaica, which was prepared by the Planning and Project Development Division of HEART Trust/NTA, revealed that Hanover had the highest number of unemployed males in the island ahead of Kingston and St Andrew and St James "contrary to the national pattern, which primarily reflects greater unemployment among females".
The report said that the number of unattached males outside the labour force was particularly high in Hanover (89 per cent), Kingston (83 per cent), and St James (73 per cent). The report further noted that a majority (63 per cent) of the island's 127,000 unattached youth were female.
For Johnson, it would be ideal if the empty factories in Lucea committed to agro-processing and the kite factory, in particular, were to be retrofitted to become a trade-training centre for youth.
According to Johnson, this has not been done because of the short-sightedness of elected officials over the years.
"I think their mindset is linear. Everybody wants to bring in more rooms and boast about how many tourists they are bringing in. How many people from Hanover are gainfully employed in the construction of hotels taking place here, and at what level are they? They are at the minimal, down at the bottom of the pyramid.
"I am not one of the persons clapping and sounding cymbals for these factories to be BPOs (business process outsourcing companies) because they are like the hotel industry, where cheap wages are paid," argued Johnson.
President of the Hanover Parish Development Committee Cleveland Wright said that the factories, in their heyday, were critical to the economy and female employment in the parish.
He said that the Cocoa Industry Board-owned fermentary could be upgraded to become a central food-processing plant for Hanover.
"Opportunities have been lost, but these properties offer opportunities to develop the parish and create employment. We think we should do a strategic review of what the parish needs and then try to approach Factories Corporation of Jamaica to put them to their proper use for the development of the parish.
"We, as a parish, have to look at what are our strengths in terms of the manufacturing of goods as we have a farming base, which is integral to manufacturing," said Wright.
"We need to look at our resources because the same factory can be producing curry, ginger, whatever product, processing the various products that come out of Hanover," added Wright.