Sweet strong sunshine - Municipal council seeking to woo investors with climate
The area has long been dubbed 'The Sunshine City', and now the Portmore Municipal Council is banking on the sunshine to attract investors to one of the Caribbean's fastest-growing communities.
Acting mayor for the municipality, Leon Thomas, said discussions are under way with a coastal electronic company in Germany, with the aim of getting it to consider establishing its Caribbean headquarters in Portmore.
"We are going to try our utmost best to get investors to come to Jamaica, because Portmore is a community where we have a high level of unemployment. If that facility should be set up in Portmore, we would see more than 300 people gaining employment," Thomas told The Sunday Gleaner during a recent interview.
"We at the municipal council are trying to say to our residents that we have beautiful sunshine, and we are the Sunshine City. We are promoting the whole solar thing across the municipality," added Thomas.
The City of Hagen in Germany has assisted with the installation of solar panels on the roof of the Portmore HEART Academy, and Thomas said this has resulted in an annual saving of nearly $5 million for the institution. He noted that persons from Australia are also interested in promoting white roof as an option for Portmore residents.
The acting mayor argued that Portmore is a prime location for investors because of its proximity to the port and its access to the toll road. He said the municipal council has been actively trying to recruit both local and international investors.
"The biggest challenge in Portmore right now is unemployment. That is my biggest problem. We have a lot of plazas in Portmore, but we need something more," said Thomas.
"When you travel through Portmore some of the time, you see the young people that are out there, that have no jobs going to."
According to Thomas, the council has been trying to improve the municipality's infrastructure to woo prospective investors, and several initiatives have been undertaken, including the upgrading of the sewage system and the beautification of selected areas.
Unemployment in the municipality is also the biggest challenge for the three members of parliament representing residents in Portmore.
St Catherine South Eastern Member of Parliament Colin Fagan said that while he has never done a survey, a significant number of those who are unemployed in the municipality are youths.
"Portmore was designed as a dormitory area, but as the community builds out, you are finding that people now would prefer especially now with the economic climate to be in the area than to be going out, and I think that is the way we would want to go," said Fagan.
Fitz Jackson, who has been the member of parliament for South St Catherine since 1994, believes the business process outsourcing sector holds great possibilities, but feels that efforts should also be made to help the residents become self-employed.
"I am looking at what micro-businesses can be done within households that doesn't compromise the residential integrity of the communities, so that they can provide income generation for the residents. That is where my mind is," said Jackson.
In the meantime, Alando Terrelonge, who was recently elected for the first time to represent St Catherine East Central, said he has already started efforts to get jobs for the many unemployed and underemployed persons in his constituency.
"A lot of the young persons who actually have the CXCs and did the CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) and went to university, they simply cannot get employment ... they have to now take a job that is beneath their skill set, so they are underemployed."
Terrelonge said he and his team have been actively approaching business owners to get summer employment for the youths in his constituency.