Norman Horne living his Jamaican dream
One of 10 children raised in modest circumstances in St Elizabeth, Norman Horne is a true example of sheer determination and ambition.
Today, Horne is living his Jamaican dream while still cherishing fond memories of a childhood filled with challenges and happiness.
The head of ARC Manufacturing, Horne retains the strong family values inculcated by his parents and uses them as a road map for his life. He recalls that, as children, they had two choices: the boys could choose either the farm or an education, and the girls’ choices were between education or a rich husband.
“I had responsibilities for goats, chickens, weeding grass to plant scallion and other crops … we complained, but life was about balance – hard work, school and fun. Outside of that was the family, where we learnt sharing and caring for each other,” the ARC Manufacturing boss said.
Since then, Horne has come a long way from university in the USA to Wall Street and back home, where he dabbled in politics while building a massive empire in the building materials industry.
He learnt business and politics from the best – his mother and father. They did not have much, but his mother was a good manager of the family’s resources, doing a lot with very little, and taught them all to be satisfied. His father was a People’s National Party councillor, then deputy mayor of Black River and organiser on behalf of the party for Manchester and St Elizabeth, no doubt influencing his decision to enter politics.
“When I was 11, I recall being put in the hamper with my brother and a stone in the other for balance, with my mother leading the donkey to the doctor in Junction. She rode it sometimes, but as a boy that age, I owned one brief. It was kept clean, only to be worn on special occasions like that,” he said, owning his story with pride.
“After one such doctor’s visit, I ran to a playground to show off my brief and I got a good spanking for it. We had one pair of shoes, at most; two pairs of pants; two shirts;and the rest was handed down from my older brothers. But at that age, you are not concerned with your parents’ struggle, you only know it’s your reality and you live it.” Today, Horne could easily own his own men’s underwear factory.
Having concluded that there were no real opportunities in Jamaica for him to excel as he desired, Horne migrated at age 19 after the historic 1980 general elections. He also had a desire to help his younger siblings and mother.
“I thought it best to migrate,” said the go-getter, adding that he got help from family friends who were United States citizens and they assisted him in getting his visa. He did brief stints in London, Toronto, and then 20 years in New York.
College degrees in the US were achieved like most ambitious immigrants did – working two jobs – (at times menial) until he landed a good job at CitiCorp in the institutional banking division where he excelled.
“I created different kinds of trading platforms and programmes then I moved on to Wall Street working with two different trading companies,” he bragged.
After Wall Street, Horne dabbled in commodities such as steel, timber, natural gas, coal, fuel among other things. He continued in trade financing until 1995, when then Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, on a visit to New York, invited all diaspora members to a conference and told them to look back and invest in their home country.
ARC is born
Attractive Restoration Conservation. The name seen on the trucks was conceptualised to do as the name suggests – produce goods that are attractive, have restorative value, and help to preserve the environment. Horne established ARC in Panama, then in 1996, opened a branch in Jamaica with a heavy emphasis on production rather than just distribution.
“For manufacturing to work in Jamaica, at that time, it required a synergy between distributing, trading commodities and producing,” the astute businessman said.
The company grew steadily, exporting products to the Caribbean, the United States, Central America, and some South American countries such as Brazil and Guyana.
“In 2008, the first half was great but the second half spelt doom. Many companies went out of business,” Horne said, adding that Jamaica felt the effects with the closure of Alpart, the Debt Exchange and failure of the IMF test. “The world had one of the worst recessions we had ever seen,” Horne explained.
ARC Systems, one of Horne’s companies, experienced the fallout. Steel that was purchased at US$1,260 per tonne fell to US$248 per tonne, generating tremendous loss, so they took the decision to stop trading and liquidate the company.
ARC Manufacturing began trading these products in 2010, manufacturing a wide range of roofing products: zinc sheets, industrial panels, technology roofing tiles (decra and Spanish etc), cappings, fachia boards, and metal gutter to specifications. ARC Manufacturing has the only and the most advanced treatment plant for lumber in the region.
They treat lumber for the Jamaican market as well as Brazil which sends them lumber to be treated and shipped to other places on their behalf. They also treat lumber for other companies in Jamaica. It is a high-tech, world-class plant of which Horne is understandably proud.
The wire plant makes all the chainlink fencing (PVC and galvanised), all construction fabric, binding wire, welding wire fabric, nails, metal pearling, track and studs for metal forming used in Jamaica. These are exported to Cayman, Haiti, Guyana, the United States, St Lucia, Turks and Caicos and St Kitts, while continuing to seek out new markets.
“We do foreign to foreign trade where the product does not come to Jamaica but are bought from a third party country and sold to another; such transactions are usually handled by their buying office which is staffed by a team of four, in Shanghai. There is also an office in Turkey” he explained.
Overall, ARC Manufacturing employs more than 600 persons throughout its network and another Horne-owned company, ARC Properties, which is responsible for, warehouse management and development.
Horne uses his very advanced technological platform to keep tabs on his organisation, being cognisant of the reality of artificial intelligence replacing manual labour globally. He is also eyeing other areas of growth like splitting the business into trading and manufacturing and listing both on the local stock market.“I have been focusing on the development and expansion of my business, but I think I could make a substantial contribution to the further development of Jamaica. I have analysed and written extensively about our economy and the issues that prevent us from moving from a Third-World to a developing economy. To move, we have to balance the population and bring more under the productive umbrella,” he said, listing some fundamentals that need to be fixed and which he would like to help to do.
He will also continue to ensure that his employees’ children between the ages 15-18 and who are in school, get at least two weeks’ holiday work; this is also extended to the children of friends and relatives. The children gain valuable experience and a sense of pride in earning and learning to budget and help with school fees. He also steps in with mentoring them about producing, consuming, and investing, sharing his life experiences with struggle and challenges that he overcame.
To his alma maters, B.B. Coke High School and Bull Savannah Primary, Horne has offered his services to the board of the former, and he is now in discussions with the latter to build four grade-six classrooms to bring the size down to 20 students each.
Golf, a good book and dominoes are the leisure time indulgencies of the busy businessman, who is also pursuing a passion for flying and aiming for his private pilot’s licence soon.
As for politics … who knows, he is not ruling it out entirely, but for now, business takes priority.