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Industry and Commerce ministry to relocate downtown

Published:Wednesday | March 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Karl Samuda, minister of industry investment and commerce.- File

Samuda personally thrilled

Dionne Rose, Business Reporter

Karl Samuda, who last month defended the planned move uptown of agencies under his portfolio as economical for them, is now planning to do the opposite and move his ministry downtown "within months".

The Industry Investment and Commerce minister told Wednesday Business he is in negotiations with another government agency to acquire space.

He declined to name the agency but said it was not the Urban Development Corporation.

"Quite contrary to what is perceived, we are actively engaged to see how quickly we can acquire new premises downtown to move our entire ministry and agencies," he told Wednesday Business.

Just last month, Samuda defended the relocation of Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ) from King Street to New Kingston, saying the agency would save $1.2 million in rental, though it seemed to counter a mandate from Prime Minister Bruce Golding for government agencies to return to the downtown area where commercial space is abundant.

The FCJ was paying $6.4 million per annum for the King Street location, which it rented from UDC. The agency will operate from premises at Knutsford Boulevard leased from NCB 1986 Pension Fund.

"The suggestion that we were trying to move from uptown to downtown was strictly an economic one at that time with Factories Corporation," he said Tuesday, again defending the relocation that was heavily criticised by Opposition spokesperson on industry and commerce, Senator Mark Golding as "inconsistent with the spirit of the times, and, on the face of it, an inexplicable departure from the prime minister's express commitment to cutting the costs of providing public-sector entities with office space."

The Industry ministry, which now operates from 18,000 square feet of space at St Lucia Avenue in New Kingston, employs 200 in 10 divisions. The ministry needs at least 25,000 square feet of space, Samuda told Wednesday Business in a previous interview.

About 19 agencies fall under the ministry's portfolio, employing another 800, but Samuda said only the 'key' agencies would relocate.

The lease terms are still being negotiated with the unnamed agency, but the parties are close to finalising the deal, the minister said Tuesday.

"Contrary to what is perceived, we are actively engaged in seeing how quickly we can acquire new premises downtown to move our entire ministry and key agencies," said Samuda.

"We are very close. If all goes well that could take place within the matter of few months."

If the negotiations pan out, Samuda's ministry would be the first to take up space downtown, beating the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Ministry, whose plans for relocation from New Kingston have been on the cards for several years, although it has identified space on the downtown waterfront, at the old Myrtle Towers hotel site, to establish its headquarters.

The foreign ministry is to construct a new building to house its operations with funding assistance from the Chinese government.

"We are confident, and we are encouraged by the developments and I personally am looking forward to it, because I would love to move to downtown," Samuda said.

"We are going to try to play our part."

dionne.rose@gleanerjm.com