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BPO job explosion on the horizon * …. Barnett ‘tech park’ now up and running* c

Published:Tuesday | May 12, 2015 | 5:00 AMMark Titus

Western Bureau:

The government's bid to secure 30,000 jobs in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector by 2020 got a significant boost last Wednesday, following the official opening of a new 50,000-square foot facility at the Barnett Tech Park in Montego Bay.

"The development of the Barnett Tech Park is an example of a government facilitating the private sector on projects that coincide with the national growth agenda," Phillip Paulwell, the minister of science, technology, energy and mining, told The Gleaner following the opening.

"We are certainly on our way to achieving our target. When that is achieved, we can assess to determine the next milestone," said Paulwell.

International BPO firms Xerox and Advanced Call Centre Technologies (ACCT) now occupy all the available space at the facility under 10-year lease arrangements. The park is also home to the 120,000-square foot Caribbean operation of Blue Chip IT company Vistaprint and has the capacity for another 600,000 square feet of space.

According to Joseph Lembo, president and chief executive officer of ACCT, his establishment, which began operating in November 2014, currently has 400 full-time employees. The company is poised to increase its staff complement to 550 by the end of July.

Xerox, which is at present the largest employee of local labour in the BPO sector with operations in the Kingston and Montego Freeport, employs approximately 6,000 people and is looking to hire 900 skilled workers when an additional 100,000 square feet of space is slated to be completed at the Barnett Tech Park in 2016.

FIVE-YEAR STRATEGY

"A national five-year strategy for the expansion of the sector, which, all things being equal, should increase employment from the current levels of 15,000 to 30,000 by 2020 will be submitted to Cabinet shortly," Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips said in Parliament last year in his 2014 Budget presentation.

The BPO sector in Jamaica comprises more than 30 companies, employing more than 17,000 people. The Government is moving to provide

1.2 million square feet of BPO space by 2016 through the Naggo Head Tech Park, Caymanas ICT Park, and the Barnett Tech Park, which will be designated as special BPO/ICT zones.

Apart from the 50,000 square feet of space that was officially opened last week, construction is set to begin on another 100,000 square feet this week, while a 70,000-square foot BPO facility has been completed in Mandeville.

Another 70,000 square feet of space in New Kingston now houses a BPO operation, even as plans are far advanced for the transformation of the Jockey Factory in Sandy Bay, Hanover, into a new BPO player.

mark.titus@gleanerjm.com