Manchester’s ICT dream is a step closer

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, October 24, 2012    

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MANCHESTER is expected to secure office space for its foray into large-scale Information Communication and Technology (ICT) development within two years, Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell said Monday.

"We believe that Mandeville can take this industry to another level," said the minister, who also holds responsibility for science, energy and mining.

Paulwell was touring the parish with parliamentary colleagues and private sector persons to identify possible ICT sites.

Investors are interested in doing business here and "real" impact can be gained, he said.

"Mandeville creates real opportunity for Jamaica, especially at the upper end of the ICT spectrum. One of the reasons why we are here today is because of the very positive feedback we have received from investors who now accept that Mandeville has a tremendous number of capable human resources. We have a critical ICT infrastructure, telecommunications is available and it's competitive. They are seeing through JAMPRO significant investor interest," he said.

"The most critical aspect of the work we have to do now is to move towards creating office space, plug and play facilities. We have put on an implementation schedule between now and 24 months to have at least 150,000 to 200,000 square feet of office space.

"That is really quite ambitious but we believe that we have the land space," he said. "We have the partnership through the (Manchester) Chamber of Commerce, through the various private sector grouping with us and of course through Northern Caribbean University (NCU). We are very, very positive about that being able to be achieved."

Among the investor attractions in Mandeville, outside the core business of ICT, are a "good and historic" golf course and a shortened proximity to Kingston as the rest of the (May Pen leg) of the highway project is completed.

Peter Bunting, member of Parliament for Central Manchester and minister of national security, who was a part of the group, which also toured sections of St Elizabeth, said that job creation and development in Manchester was at the centre of the commitment in his manifesto.

The tour with Paulwell and his team, he said, was a "tangible demonstration of the fact that this area (Manchester) is now on the front burner" in terms of the plans of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining.

Through a possible negotiation with bauxite company Windalco, the government could take over up to 30 acres of land in the Williamsfield area and set up diverse ICT-related businesses making the area a "hub in and of itself", he said.

Properties owned by private persons across the greater Mandeville are also being looked at as the owners have expressed a willingness to use them for ICT facilities.

Bunting insisted lottery scammers would not be allowed to exploit the development of legitimate operations such as ICT and deter investments. The new Lottery Scam Task Force is doing audits and making recommendations to improve security.

"We have long recognised from the Ministry of National Security that if we don't get the lotto scammers under control it will threaten the legitimate industries, the legitimate jobs," he said. "It will threaten our entire economy."

Manchester and neighbouring St Elizabeth have been hit hard by the fallout in the two major bauxite companies — Alpart and Windalco.

The Manchester Chamber of Commerce has been promoting resurgence of productivity in these parishes through the development of sectors such as ICT that have the potential to create large and thriving businesses.





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