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MoBay poised for significant growth - * … investments rolling in apace*

Published:Thursday | October 22, 2015 | 8:58 AMAdrian Frater
An aerial view of Montego Bay Freezone, the hub of the business process outsourcing (BPO) in the Caribbean.

Multibillion-dollar investments rolling in apace

Despite surrendering pride of place to Falmouth in cruise shipping, and the likelihood of a similar scenario when casino gaming becomes a reality, Montego Bay still appears to be well positioned for substantial growth based on the vast number of multimillion-dollar projects slated for the city.

In June, the positive projections got a significant boost with the announcement that the St James Parish Council (STJPC) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had signed off on a massive US$425 million (J$48 billion initiative, which is geared towards transforming Montego Bay into a sustainable city over the next 15 years.

"We are ready to move full speed ahead with the StJPC to begin the process of a public-private sector partnership on this project," said Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) president, Gloria Henry, who is quite enthused about the initiative, which is an integral part of the new Montego Bay Action Plan.

More good news came last week when the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) officially launched its much-anticipated US$22.54 million (J$2.5 billion) Bogue Gas Conversion Project, which is poised to make Montego Bay the liquefied natural gas (LNG) capital of the Caribbean region.

As a result of the coming on stream of the gas conversion project, the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ) has taken a decision to fast-track its modernisation plans for the Montego Bay port, which is to become the hub of the city's LNG operations.

"We are very much focused on developing a proper, world-class port that can compete with any other regional port," said Edmond Marsh, vice-president of business development at the PAJ, in acknowledging that the port is likely to serve as a refuelling station for cruise ships and cargo ships that run on LNG.

Major developments are also taking place in the city's bustling business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, which is said to be the fastest growing sector in Jamaica.

Earlier this year, Factories Corporation of Jamaica Limited (FCJ) announced that it will be retrofitting some 66,000 square feet of existing factory space at the Montego Bay Freezone. The Freezone subsequently announced that it will be constructing 63,000 square feet of rentable space.

The BPO sector also got further good news last week when businessman Mark Kerr-Jarrett, the chairman of telecommunication company FLOW, announced that the recent upgrading work done by his company in Montego Bay had put the local BPO sector on par with the best in the world, in terms of technology.

"The choice to invest even more in western Jamaica, home of the BPO sector, says we are serious about the development of Jamaica," said Kerr-Jarrett. "Now supported by the opening of our state-of-the-art, first-of-its-kind customer experience centre in the city of Montego Bay, it further signals our seriousness and brings us on par with some of the most sophisticated societies globally."

With plans well advanced for more hotel rooms, new tertiary institutions, new housing developments, further expansion of the Montego Bay port; alongside the recent unveiling of the multimillion Hospiten Montego Bay and the Barnett Tech Park, there are now solid reasons to believe that the city is poised for significant growth.