Kerr-Jarretts to make MoBay productive centre of excellence
Janet Silvera, Senior Gleaner Writer
WESTERN BUREAU: POWER COUPLE Mark and Paula Kerr-Jarrett have unveiled plans to transform the face of the tourism capital Montego Bay into a housing Mecca, information technology centre and an international university town.
In a recent interview, the two, owners of Barnett Estate Limited, candidly told The Gleaner their latest multibillion-dollar partnership project, when complete, will result in the construction of 1,300 homes by Gore Developments Ltd, a 48-acre tech park, with the potential for 800,000 square feet of IT space (equating to 30,000 jobs), and a new University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Western Jamaica Campus, capable of accommodating 8,000 to 10,000 students.
These three projects have a combined investment value of US$500 million said Kerr-Jarrett.
"Essentially, what these three projects will do is allow persons to get their education here in Montego Bay, buy a home and get a job in the same locale," he stated.
Kerr-Jarrett estimates that the second building in the Park (VistaPrint being the first, employing 1,000 employees) expected to be completed by October 1, will be 50,000 square feet and offer 1,000 jobs in the IT sector, as well as offering obvious spin-offs in the services and commercial area.
Within the facility, the plan is to develop 200,000 square feet of commercial support services, which will include recreational area, medical, canteens, fitness and a 24-hour infant and toddler-care centre.
Kerr-Jarrett pointed out that the three projects which will be situated on 500 acres of land, will create not only wealth in western Jamaica, but will give Montego Bay its rightful place as the productive centre of excellence.
According to the forward-thinking businessman, brain drain in the past has affected the city.
"Our best brains went elsewhere to study or find jobs," he lamented.
Actively involved in enticing investors to the second city, Barnett Estate and its team of directors, including former Minister of Agriculture Dr Christopher Tufton and businessman Chris Bovell, gifted the UWI with a 60 per cent discount on the land it plans to construct the new campus on, plus an offer of five years to pay.
"If we develop the people, the people will develop the country. Education has been the driving force behind our corporate vision. We are where we are because of education," stressed Kerr-Jarrett.
Under the deal with UWI, the educational institution is required to break ground in 12 months and should be well established in five years.
"Part of the school's focus will be geared towards IT/BPO (business processing) industry," said Mrs Kerr-Jarrett, adding that individuals will be trained in supervisory and management skills for the IT industry.
According to her, software development has to be on the forefront of any training plans.
"It pays four times more than the average BPO job, and it's a very specific skill that we are particularly suited to because of our creativity," she said.
potential job market
UWI students, the couple stated, will have the opportunity to get tech-park jobs while pursuing their education. The project is similar to one now at UWI, Mona in St Andrew, managed by Sutherland Global.
The developers are, however, not waiting on the new campus to be built, instead, they have assured that as soon as the new tenant commences operation of the tech park, students will be given the opportunity of being bussed from the Western Jamaica Campus to the facility to benefit from the potential job market the park will allow.
"W have spoken with Dr Luz Longsworth, the director at WJC, already, and plan to further collaborate as plans progress," said Mrs Kerr-Jarrett.
Barnett's investment is US$14 million in land and infrastructure for the tech park. That figure has increased by US$8 million for construction of the building.
The third project, the housing development, should commence early 2015.
According to Mrs Kerr-Jarrett, a holistic approach has been used in implementing the project.
"It's a tripartite development, where all parties sat down to ensure all were in sync."
Tufton, she said, has coordinated, monitored and overseen the cooperation and synergy of the project. Tufton is in charge of business development at Barnett Estate Limited.
Within the whole development, the plan is to retain 100 acres, which will be developed for a higher-end retirement community.
"This will be built around the Bellefield Great House. We will probably use the great house as the country club and spa," she said.