Marcella Scarlett, Business Reporter
Jamaica Manufacturer's Association has revised the criteria for membership that makes it easier for micro and small firms to join the trade group.
The amended rules now allow MSEs that employ fewer than five people and in business for less than seven years to join through the newly created JMA Micro and Small Enterprise Membership Facility launched on Thursday.
The cost of membership under this facility starts at J$5,000 per year up to J$10,000, depending on the business' gross annual sales.
The only requirement is that the company is registered with the Companies Office of Jamaica and is tax compliant.
Prior to this programme, JMA membership was extended only to manufacturers employing at least five persons for fees ranging from J$23,922 to J$95,000, annually.
"What we are doing is fostering the growth of a small start-up company," said JMA president Brain Pengelley.
"The introduction of this facility is a huge step for the association, as it means greater representation and support for manufacturers as they progress through their start-up years," he said.
This initiative has been endorsed publicly by the Ministry of Industry Investment and Co-mmerce.
"Any initiative that can provide jobs have our full support and this is one of them. The development of the MSE sector is high on our agenda," said State Minister Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams.
The JMA currently has 330 members; it expects to boost membership by at least 100 firms by year end by opening up to MSEs.
"We have identified the need for a one-stop shop for micro and small manufacturers that will assist them until they are able to 'graduate' to ordinary membership. The JMA has decided to meet this need," Pengelley said.
Services under the new facility, which has been operational for a month, will include mentorship, referrals to associations, agencies or consultants that provide support services outside of the capacity of JMA, business development training, advocacy and lobby, trade facilitation and promotion, advertising, capacity building and networking.
"That introductory contact can be very important," he said.
The JMA president told Sunday Business that the facility already has five new members signed, with several others expressing interest.
The five are ICAN, Chocolate Dreams, Ackee Wine, accessory company D'Nex Step, and snack company Boonunus.
"There is no rigorous paper work. The application form is short and simple. All that they need to do is be tax compliant and register. We have sent out the application forms already and we have other people who are working on signing up," he said.
Pengelley said there are companies that have been around for more than seven years but don't qualify for full JMA membership. Those companies will be accommodated under the new facility, he said
"The reason we put it at seven years is because the period to start up is really five to seven years. This is the critical period, but if somebody comes and say, 'Look, we have been around for nine years - the first three years we had it rough, and after that we still weren't doing very much - we wouldn't preclude it," he said.
"We just set seven years as a guideline."