Big construction sector support for new US$8-million cement centre in MoBay
HART...we have invested in a modern distribution centre because we have seen that the market and the demand for cement will grow in the years to come.

MONTEGO BAY, St James — A number of stakeholders in the construction sector are overwhelmingly receptive of the announced development of a US$8-million distribution centre in this western city by renowned businessman Mark Hart.

According to Hart, the development of the distribution centre is sparked by the building boom in the western end of the island, subsequently ratcheting up the demand for the key construction ingredient.

"We have invested in a modern distribution centre because we have seen that the market and the demand for cement will grow in the years to come because the country is positioned for growth and we are seeing that there are a lot of major projects either started or we expect to start," Hart told the Jamaica Observer.

"There are hotel projects. Right now we have the Unico Montego Bay Hotel project kicking off, there is the Princess Resort down in Hanover area and there are other hotels that will start to come out of the ground very soon. You have the bypass road. On top of that, on the western side they will be doing the North Coast Highway enhancement that has been recently announced. Of course, the Government has also announced a housing agenda. So we see that the demand for cement is going to go up and we want to be in a position to handle the addition," added Hart.

For the last 16 years, Montego Bay company Buying House Cement has been importing cement to meet 10 per cent demand from Domicem cement plant in the Dominican Republic.

Hart is the chairman of Cargo House Handlers, a publicly listed company with 30 per cent shares in Buying House Cement.

Michael Allen, operator of Speedy Way Hardware in Orange, Hanover, is among the players in the construction sector eagerly anticipating the development of the multimillion-dollar cement distribution centre by Hart in Montego Bay.

"It is something which is longing for. The current infrastructure is not able to withstand all the demand. The expansion of such will bring a bit of stabilisation to the distribution area," Allen told the Sunday Observer.

"The demand for this brand of cement has dramatically increased. Over the past three to four years, you would have seen a significant increase in the demand for this particular product."

Michelle Taylor, operator of a building block factory and quarry in Manchester, a Buying House customer, also welcomed the move to provide a consistent supply of the product out of the distribution centre.

"We purchase cement from them [Buying House] and there are times when they are out of stock, particularly the jumbo sacks. And so if we could get a consistent supply and whenever you need they would have the product available, then I think that that would certainly be beneficial to everybody in the market," Taylor said.

Jano Green, who operates a building block factory in Discovery Bay, St Ann, is also heartened by the development.

"It sound good to me. I think it's good for persons that are doing my type of business, especially. It will definitely have a positive impact personally to me. For the most part, it [supply] is steady enough but there are times when we have to wait for ship to unload and that might take a few days. So that does cause some amount of inconvenience. So if the quantity should be increased, then I think it would provide a smoother supply in terms of the rolling out. The supply is alright at the moment but it does have room for improvement," Green commented.

Sydney Knott of Little London, Westmoreland-based Knott's block factory also welcomed the new project.

"I welcome this new development. We will get a better service when we have more. They won't run out," Knott said.

President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Oral Heaven described the development as a positive move.

"There will be employment opportunities for people who will be working in the centre; for truck drivers. A whole of lot opportunities stemming from it and so we welcome that," Heaven stated.

Meanwhile, Hart explained that Buying House, which will lease the distribution centre, "will also provide some upfront lease payments to facilitate the construction of the facility".

"So they are making an investment themselves in terms of an upfront advance lease to assist with the development," Hart pointed out.

He was quick to add that "of course, we will rely on the Government issuing the appropriate quotas".

"But we want to be prepared because we expect there will be a rise in demand and we want to be prepared to be able to logistically handle the increases that we see coming from all of the growth. And it's very important to have the cement located in the western end of the island. We will seek to increase our quota in line with the country's demand for the product," Hart, who is a also Buying House director, argued. "We are just looking to provide supply and pricing security for this critical product."

BY HORACE HINES Staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

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