Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in northern Haiti on Monday at the head of a delegation of foreign investors and a crowd of celebrities to showcase the centrepiece of the United States effort to help the country recover from the 2010 earthquake.
An all-star turnout was expected for the opening of the industrial park more than 100 miles from the slowly recovering quake zone. Sean Penn, who has run his own aid effort in Haiti, was there, along with actor Ben Stiller, fashion designer Donna Karen and British business magnate Richard Branson.
The Clintons and their allies hope that the $300-million industrial facility will transform the northern part of this impoverished country by providing thousands of desperately needed jobs.
Some Haitians have a sharply different view. They say the Caracol Industrial Park does little more than replicate failed efforts from the past and contend it will benefit outsiders more than Haitians. They also worry it will harm some of the few pieces of undamaged environment that still exist in Haiti.
The industrial park was built on a 617-acre (250-hectare) site meant to "decentralize" Haiti's economy away from the crowded capital of Port-au-Prince and help develop the long-neglected countryside.
The anchor tenant is South Korean apparel giant Sae-A Trading Co Ltd, which begun production in May. It has agreed to create 20,000 permanent jobs within six years and also build 5,000 houses. Backers say the entire park has the potential to generate up to 65,000 jobs in all.
Sae-A, which shipped 76,000 T-shirts to Wal-Mart in the United States on October 15, says it is training 1,050 people it has hired, 70 per cent of them from the area surrounding Caracol. Daniel Cho, a representative of Sae-A in Haiti, said the employees will be paid almost $5 for eight hours of work.
A local paint manufacturing company, Peintures Caraibes SA, became the second tenant in July and will export paint made by Sherwin Williams along with its own paint; production begins next month. It's supposed to hire a total of 350 people.
Details are still being worked on to bring in other tenants, but the project's architects hope its duty-free status and a 15-year tax holiday will lure more companies.