NATIONAL Baking Company Chairman Gary “Butch” Hendrickson on Monday outlined plans for his company’s $6.7-billion, state-of the-art bakery at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay, saying that it will be equipped with advanced technology rivalling any similar factory on Earth and create employment for at least 75 highly skilled Jamaicans initially.
The plant, Hendrickson said, will also improve efficiency and open new opportunities for the company to meet the demands of its growing international markets.
“To build at Catherine Hall is a logical choice. This was driven, firstly, by the need to satisfy a growing demand, so our $6.7-billion investment will have the capacity to produce over 3,600 loaves an hour. It’s going to be a fast plant, it’s going to be a very efficient plant,” Hendrickson told a room full of the country’s business and political leaders, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Mark Golding at Hilton Rose Hall hotel in Montego Bay.
“It is intended that this will be as modern a facility and technically as advanced as anything on planet Earth,” Hendrickson said, explaining that the 120,000-square foot plant will utilise computer-aided equipment controlled by advanced software that will handle the more laborious tasks in the baking business.
“We’ll incorporate the use of robotics for the first time in our businesses and these will go into our repetitive processes that human beings just can’t do anymore. This will allow our management to focus on quality, plant efficiency and, most important, the well-being of our team,” added Hendrickson.
The candidates for the 75 jobs that will be created at the start-up will undergo extensive training in processes and equipment operation, Hendrickson explained.
“The selection process will be extremely rigorous, and it has to be for what we are aiming; we are aiming to open an FDA (US Food and Drug Administration)-approved plant on day one. We are going to meet every standard, and it is our intention to keep and exceed it,” he said.
“This facility is a higher step for us as we work for a brighter future for our customers, our staff, and, indeed, Jamaica. It continues our tradition of constant growth and it’s a new mile marker for us,” Hendrickson added.
He also said that the new factory, for which ground has already been broken with construction projected to be completed by late 2025, will stimulate regional growth and efficiency to distribute in St James, Trelawny, St Ann, Hanover, Westmoreland, and St Elizabeth.
“This is part of our ongoing commitment to delivering fresh product to these areas in as short a time as possible, and in our business hours matter,” Hendrickson said, adding that the plant will also enhance National’s capability to export from Montego Freeport to meet the demands of its growing market overseas.
“We’ve survived in business for 71 years due to the trust our customers place in us consistently and reliably producing and delivering the finest products. We’ve worked very hard to keep that faith,” said Hendrickson, who opened his address with a happy 94th birthday wish for his father Karl, who was in the audience.
Prime Minister Holness, too, congratulated the elder Hendrickson on his birthday and described him as one of Jamaica’s foremost industrialists.
“He has taken, along with his family, a simple but one of the most important manufacturing processes — the creation of bread — and he has turned it into a major industry in Jamaica,” Holness said.
“When you consider all the industries you have added, whether in manufacturing, tourism, or agriculture, the Hendrickson name stands tall, and so all Jamaica owes you a debt of gratitude. So I am here, Karl, to celebrate your birthday. Ninety-four years is significant in the life of anything… you have lived it well and your years have been productive years,” the prime minister said.
He commended the company for its philosophy of placing the needs of its consumers and workers first, pointing out that Jamaica’s biggest asset is its people “and our people create value cumulatively, which we describe as the brand”.
“We haven’t been doing as much as we should in leveraging the value of the brand, and sometimes I’m convinced that there are some Jamaicans who are working overtime to destroy the brand. But, thankfully, we have more Jamaicans who add value every single day to Brand Jamaica.”
Holness also noted the company’s intention to integrate technology in the new plant, saying that the quality of the workforce that it will need to provide technical skills will translate into higher-paid jobs.
The creation of more economic opportunities like those, he argued, will contribute to the realisation of his Administration’s theme of “peace, productivity [and] prosperity” for 2024.
“It may sound wishful, but I think we all want peace in our land. The more peace we have, the more productive we will be, and the more productive we are, the greater our prosperity.
“So this is the year when we will have a virtuous cycle, but it is something that we have to work towards; we have to be deliberate and instrumental in this,” Holness said.