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'We can't afford to miss the boat!'

Monday, April 07, 2014    

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WE saw Jamaican excellence on show at our National Stadium and National Arena over the past two weeks. It was probably about 2002 that the late Teddy McCook was discussing his favourite topic: The promise of young Jamaican athletes. "If you could see the times these youngsters are doing now, you would get a headache," he told us. In quick succession after that, Jamaica would be able to declare that we had the fastest man in the world — Asafa Powell, and then yet another even faster, Usain Bolt. We would enjoy the rocket runs of Veronica Campbell Brown and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

As we consider some of the records broken at the recent ISSA/GraceKennedy Boys' and Girls' Championships, we see that Jamaica continues to hold her own. Our high school relay teams are the fastest in their age cohort in the world. After Calabar's Javon Francis broke the Class One 400-metre record, set by Usain Bolt 11 years ago, subtracting .35 seconds to take it to 45 seconds, the legendary Bolt himself tweeted: "Jamaica's track future is in good hands... Congrats #JavonFrancis breaking class one 400m record #champs2014 #future #45sec."

The packed stands, the professional execution of the event, and the obvious dedication of the coaches showed us where the country can achieve if only we would decide to take the option of professionalism and diligence over cunning short-cuts. Special congratulations to Calabar's Michael Clarke, regarded as the most successful Champs coach. I suggest the JAAA and the JTB join to start a "Run with a Jamaican" summer promotion; high school children from all over the world would flock here!

Last Thursday, we walked in enchantment through our National Arena, impressed by the high quality of our Jamaican products and services displayed at the 2014 Expo Jamaica Show. This was the first time that there was a full private-public sector partnership, and the synergy worked. There were over 500 overseas buyers, the largest number ever for Expo, and what a sight they beheld: fine furniture, food, beverages, liquor, wines, spices, footwear, banking, research, environmental, IT and other services.

Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who declared EXPO open, noted: "When I look around this arena today, my faith is renewed with the assurance that we have a strong entrepreneurial class in Jamaica that will, for the most part, choose to see the glass half-full and not half-empty. To you, I say, the Government of Jamaica recognises the JMA, the JEA, the PSOJ, and all the other umbrella private sector groups as critical partners in achieving export-driven growth in the economy. No economy can grow and prosper without a robust and active export sector."

National Bakery's "Bold Ones of Manufacturing" gained several nods of approval from PM Simpson Miller as she was introduced to the eight new entrepreneurs by their sponsor Butch Hendrickson. Much to Howard Coxe's delight, she tasted the Flavours of the Past Ackee Wine and had Dorrette Ubanks beaming when she declared her D'NexStep Sandals "Beautiful!"

We saw the ingenious Ann Talbot Smith, who co-created the AnniLu Fruitcake Mix with fellow Alpha alumna Luciene HoShing Morrison — she told us that they have developed an authentic sweet potato pudding mix, simply add coconut milk and bake. There was MIT graduate Grace Foster-Reid, who has turned her parents' apiculture efforts into the creative Ecofarms, manufacturers of HoneyStix and mead, the only honey wine made in Jamaica. This is how we can make our tertiary institutions more relevant; by ensuring that we inspire our students to look to our wonderful resources to create businesses and employment.

As noted by Mrs Simpson Miller: "We must also focus on the authenticity of the Jamaican brand and the growing global market demand for our foods and beverages, fashion and fine art and craft, which are in high demand by overseas markets."

On the mezzanine of the National Arena are several supporting companies, one of my favourites being Environmental Solutions Limited (ESL), founded by former UWI lecturer the brilliant Eleanor Jones. Eleanor started ESL over 20 years ago after attending conference after conference on environmental issues and not hearing any practical steps being taken to address them. The impatient academic decided that she had to do something and the services offered by her team of experts have been a boon to investors.

"Moving forward and achieving growth will require that we seize the moment now, more than ever, to insert our manufacturing and export industries into the global supply and value chain in order to create new revenue streams," urged the prime minister. "We will have to identify market niches that are under-served and fill those markets, and we have to be prepared for growth in global trade. We cannot afford to miss the boat!"

Sports, manufacturing, the creative industries — so many opportunities. Congratulations to those who 'got on the boat' and let's work to give others a well-needed boost.

Fascinating CPL T20 Draft

We attended the CPL T20 Draft at Chris Gayle's stylish Triple Century Sports Bar, and were immediately star-struck by the concentration of celebrities in the room, led by CPL chairman former Prime Minister P J Patterson. This was the draw for top international names to join the various teams for the 2014 T20 series and their mentors were all present: Jamaica Tallawahs - Ambassador Courtney Walsh, Barbados Tridents - Desmond Haynes, Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel - Gordon Greenidge, Guyana Amazon Warriors - Sir Curtly Ambrose, St Lucia Zouks - Sir Andy Roberts, and Antigua Hawksbills - Sir Viv Richards.

Before the Draft, six International Franchise Players (IFPs) were announced, including international cricket's most successful bowler ever, Muttiah Muralitharan, for the Jamaica Tallawahs. The first cricketer drawn on Thursday was top English batsman Kevin Pietersen for the St Lucia Zouks. The cricketworld.com website quoted him as saying: "The Caribbean is one of my favourite places to play because it's a very entertaining, relaxing, enjoyable environment and that's the kind of environment I think I perform best in."

The Draft was emceed by Simon Crosskill and live-streamed worldwide by Phase Three. My dear dad, who was a dedicated cricket fan, would have been astonished at this fast-evolving sport of cricket.

Negril icon Cosmo Brown

It was a pleasure to meet Negril icon Cosmo Brown who runs the popular Cosmo's Seafood Restaurant and Bar on Negril Beach. His history explained why his relaxed eatery is so well managed. Born in Negril, Cosmo migrated to the US as a youngster and became a trained chef, managing a busy restaurant in downtown Chicago, "right across from Union Station".

He returned to Jamaica in 1976 to establish his restaurant, and now employs a team of 25, 11 of whom are permanent. As well as he did abroad, Cosmo said he is glad he returned to Jamaica. "Let me tell you something; Jamaica is the greatest country in the world!" Cosmo's wise eyes are full of great stories. Thank goodness he is here to help keep Jamaica the beautiful destination that we are.

lowriechin@aim.com

www.lowrie-chin.blogspot.com

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