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Development group on a mission in May Pen

Published:Thursday | March 9, 2017 | 12:04 AMShanique Samuels

MAY PEN, Clarendon:

Damion Young, Local Economic Development (LED) officer with the Clarendon Municipal Corporation, has said economic growth and job creation is possible at the community level with strong support from local authorities and the private sector.

"Essentially, it's a move to create economic activities in business by tapping into the local resources by looking at how we can develop these resources into actual business initiatives, thereby creating jobs which will help to drive growth at the local level," Young told Rural Xpress.

The Caribbean Local Economic Development (CARILED) project was the entity that introduced this concept to Jamaica. It is a project that was funded by the Canadian government and the pilot project was introduced in six municipalities across Jamaica, including Clarendon in 2013. CARILED ensured that the local authority was trained to identify resources within the local geographic space that could be transformed into economic engagement such as projects in greenhouse (agriculture) and tourism.

As a trained LED officer along with other members of the corporation, Young and the team were able to identify business prospects that have come on stream and have been successful, which include the Mocho Greenhouse Project, the Milk River Seafood Festival, and Peckham Bamboo project. "We did a Local Economic Development strategy which identified agriculture, manufacturing and tourism as economic and growth drivers for the parish. Our projects and initiatives have been geared towards unearthing the possibilities in those areas, which will be even more robust going forward. LED was also involved with the Bull Head event held recently which helped to strengthen the product and assisted with building the capacity of the organisers," he told Rural Xpress.

The Youth in Business project in 2016 was also an initiative of CARILED, where the Clarendon Municipal Corporation provided grant funding to entrepreneurs and training to 16 youth-led businesses in partnership with other agencies. Young said they are seeking to double the number this year for the project.

For the immediate past mayor of May Pen, Scean Barnswell under whose tenure the LED office started, the pilot project was a success so the municipal corporation decided to employ a LED officer. "He plays a very important role in getting community groups together to realise their full potential. I expect to see more community-based groups coming on board in the short term," said Barnswell, adding that the Clarendon Municipal Corporation will continue to support local economic development initiatives.

Going forward, Young said the LED office will be looking at creating a tourism trail where a package will be put together with all the potential sites for the adventure-seeking tourists. These will include the Alley Church, which is the oldest church in the parish, the Milk River Hotel and Spa and the Alligator Hole, where manatees are said to exist, among other exciting sites and tie them into a package for ecotourism as an offering to tourists.

"A LED office is critical to developing countries to tap into the possibilities and bring them to the fore and ensure they become fully functioning businesses at the local level. It is very important to have such initiative across genders, age groups and social standings that can become income generators.