Prime Minister Andrew Holness cited the grand opening of business process outsourcer itel’s second campus in Kingston as a positive economic indicator that should send a message to Jamaicans that “now is the time to invest” in the country.
The grand opening of the 90,000-square-foot facility on Chalmers Avenue took place on Wednesday, May 25, 2022, in the company of several Jamaican business executives and Members of Parliament representing both Cabinet and Opposition.
Chalmers Commercial, as it is called, building currently houses 825 employees and provides 1,140 seats for a total employee capacity of 1,400. The state-of-the-art, employee-centred facility combines the aesthetic of Silicon Valley in California, USA, and landscapes of the Caribbean.
In his keynote address, Prime Minister Holness emphasised that the country’s economy will grow on the back of the successes of the private sector. In this regard, he appealed to Jamaicans to dispel the notion that the private sector is “an exploiter” and to desist berating the successes of the business class.
“Jamaica will only grow when our businesses grow. For a long time the culture and the thought of average Jamaicans was that Jamaica will only grow when the Government does well or when the Government grows,” he stated, adding that it is a notion that’s out to be changed.
As a juxtaposition, Holness said the role of Government is to facilitate the growth of business activity through partnerships with private sector. He added that the growth of the private sector and its contribution to the economy will in turn allow the Government to address some of the social challenges.
While highlighting that itel invested in the Chalmers Commercial during the pandemic, Honess noted that “there is a message that is getting through to our business class…that yes, now is the time to invest”. At the same time, the Government is working towards making risks more “calculable, manageable, predictable” so that more Jamaicans can consider converting their cash into real estate and other assets.
Though a tenant of Chalmers Commercial property, since 2020, itel has invested US$7 million on retrofitting the facility. At capacity, the operation should contribute US$60 million to the local economy.
The landlord, Musson Group, will begin construction of a second building for itel on the adjacent lot set for launch in 2023.
In this regard, Holness congratulated the Musson Group and Barita Investments Limited, both of which partnered on the construction of Chalmers Commercial.
Pointing out that the construction of the office building will redound not only to the benefit of the nation but also the immediate community. The prime minister said the investment is termed a “positive externality”.
“The private sector who would have put down the capital to build this building, they are going to make a return…they are going to make a profit,” Holness explained.
“The people who are employed here will earn a wage. They will earn a salary and that’s all private, but Jamaica has benefitted so significantly,” he added.
According to the Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Senator Aubyn Hill, the global services sector in which itel operates grew from 17,000 direct employees in 2017 to 46,000 employees in 2021. Simultaneously, revenues have increased from $400 million in 2016 to $900 million in the last calendar year.
“I am confident that itel and other international and domestic BPO players will continue to generate investments and create jobs in the sector and that Jamaica will move up the value chain to secure new and more business in the knowledge and information technology outsourcing business while holding on to a very good BPO [sector] that we have been building over the years,” the minister stated.
“What Yoni Epstein and his team are doing supports what I have been and will continue to advance as Jamaica’s business minister, that Jamaicans with capital…must invest more in Jamaica,” he continued.
Making reference to the growth of Dubai over the last 25 years under Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Hill said that Jamaica is at a similar juncture in its history. He shared further that both a number of Bahamians and Trinidadians with whom he has met has expressed an interest in investing in Jamaica.
As such he encouraged, “Jamaicans, invest in Jamaica. This is the time. Don’t let the bus pass you.”
Hill noted that industries ripe for investments include manufacturing, agriculture, agro-processing, and the creative industries to both foster employment, boost export earnings and stimulate economic growth.