MONTEGO BAY, St James - CHAIRMAN of the recently established Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIA) Yoni Epstein is lobbying private sector support for the creation of more space to develop call centres in the Montego Bay Freezone.
"Space is one of the huge issues here in Jamaica and we are looking at private investors to step in and assist with that," Epstein told Observer West.
"If you talk to JAMPRO, and you talk to the rest of us players, people are looking everyday to come to Jamaica, but we don't have the space currently," he said.
Epstein said BPIA is also working with the Montego Bay Freezone to use existing space to develop a turnkey business incubator, which is a call centre facility with cubicles containing requisite network infrastructure.
Epstein who was responding to questions following the launch of BPIA at Vista Print in the resort city of Montego Bay last week-end, said he wants the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) to extend the existing 12 months moratorium offered to private investors to 36 months, specifically for BPO developers.
"We are looking to work with the DBJ to extend the moratorium so that the private investors can start building right away and therefore have ready built space so as the business comes, you can turn it in immediately," he said.
Additionally, the BPIA head wants JAMPRO to attract more local investors to the industry.
"There are 26 (BPO) companies in Jamaica. We want JAMPRO to assist some of the local investor/operators in developing their businesses, and not only focus on the multi-nationals," remarked Epstein, who is CEO of Island Outsourcers.
Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell who delivered the keynote address commended the formation of BPIA but was quick to warn members not to damage their external business prospects by competing among themselves.
"I hope members of the organisation see the need for less competition amongst yourselves. Rather to see the true nature of this industry which is global," Paulwell declared.
He argued that if "we were to claw back five percent of the business that has gone to India or to the Philippines" then the sector could "do much more".
"But we can only do that through cooperation, through collaboration of sharing information internally so that we can attract the bigger prize from the external sources and that is why we now have to go on this drive to expand the industry far and wide," he said.
Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton also hailed the launch of the BPIA.
"I look forward to working even closer with you; and you can count on my support for the Association," Hylton said.
ICT Ambassador Patrick Casserly — who was identified by Epstein as the BPO Pioneer in Jamaica — said the association reflected maturing of the industry.
"A coming together of its participants, a realisation that it is not simply a shop, it is truly an industry it has evolved, it has matured. Maturity means that we have to continue to tweak our offering," Casserly warned.
Epstein told the Observer West that among other things the association was formed to "have one voice for the over 12,000 employees inside the sector with 26 companies, and to provide training for players in the industry".
He noted that he is so far encouraged by the enlisting of new members, including the major telecommunication companies.