MONTEGO BAY, St James — The burgeoning business process outsourcing (BPO) sector, now operating in 12 of the 14 parishes across Jamaica, is poised for further growth to come from the over US$70 million in projects being prepared by international investors.
Gloria Henry, president of the Global Services Association of Jamaica (GSAJ), formerly Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), revealed that information on the major projects by international investors was gleaned from surveys conducted over two months ago.
“We are seeing quite a buzz from international investors. Our surveys that were done as at March 31st showed that the majority of our members are seeing new projects, or have new projects in the pipeline. And, some of those who reported new projects have over US$70 million worth of projects lined up that will be coming into Jamaica. So that is critical organic growth that we are seeing,” Henry told reporters on Friday, the first of the two-day Outsource2Jamaica 2021 virtual Conference.
She added: “More importantly, we have new investors that we have been engaged with, and just this (last) week I had discussion with a financial institution that is looking to set up business in Jamaica and that is amazing because we are seeing that despite the pandemic Jamaica is still the nearshore destination of choice for outsourcers.”
Speaking during a break at the the third staging of GSAJ's signature event for showcasing Jamaica's global services sector, Henry also predicted that employment in the sector will develop from 43,000 into the 50,000 territory.
According to Diane Edwards, president of Jamaica Promotions Corporation (Jampro), the focus of the agency is to capitalise on the 50,000 jobs in the post-COVID-19 era expected to move nearshore out of the Phillipines and India.
“They say that post-COVID, because of the shortening of supply chains and everyone wanting to be closer to the US, what they call nearshore; certainly 50,000 jobs, and some people say more, out of that Asian area coming to the nearshore. How much can we grow is a matter of how much we up skill our people so that we can grow. So we need as much of those 50,000 jobs as we can and that is Jampro's focus,” Edwards noted.
The head of the national investment and export agency further noted that: “A huge interest is coming to Jamaica because Jamaica is doing everything right. Speaking earlier (Friday), Lynda Arsenault of Business Diplomacy, a consulting company based in Canada, said Jamaica is doing everything right and is the best near shore location right now in the world. So we have to build on that and not rest on our laurels. There is a lot of investor interest coming from new companies.”
She added that post-Brexitt UK is now looking at Jamaica “and looking at the opportunities here”.
“We already have one UK company here that is looking to attract business from the UK. We have 60-odd US companies, we have a Filipino company, we have two Indian companies. So really the world is our oyster, but we have to reach out and grab it,” stated the Jampro boss.
Henry, in the meantime, noted that it is expected that BPO investments are expected to spread right across the country, including St Thomas and Trelawny, the only two parishes presently without any BPO investments.
“Trelawny and St Thomas are the only ones now that do not have BPOs, but we expect that once the purpose design, the purpose ready buildings are in those parishes, that our members will be more than happy to expand into those areas,” Henry disclosed.
“There are a number of places in Trelawny that have been looked at, have been considered ideal for global services. I don't want to preempt any public of private sector investment project by naming any particular site, but personally I have seen those sites and they are amazing sites that will certainly expand Jamaica's value proposition as a near shore destination of choice.”
For his part, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation Aubyn Hill, who has responsibility for BPO, also hinted at expected expansion of the sector to Trelawny and St Thomas.
“I have no doubt that the work of entities such as the Port Authority of Jamaica and Factories Corporation, coupled with the enterprising ethos of the private sector, will in due course, herald the arrival of global services operations in Trelawny, a parish that is even now seeing major residential construction and is on the cusp of significant resort development,” Hill stated.
“In the case of St Thomas, the development of the Morant Bay Urban Centre at the site of the old Goodyear factory at a cost of more than $6 billion provides a golden opportunity for the BPO sector to activate an overdue expansion into that parish.”
Former president of the BPIAJ, Yoni Epstein, founding chairman and chief executive officer of Itelbpo, and a leading authotity on outsourcing in the Caribbean, noted that the sector has now rebounded even stronger than before the onset of the pandemic.
“We are exicted about that because as you know Jamaica is very sought after. We have seen where the industry is coming from 12,000 employees to 43,000 today and our projections are that we are going to continue to grow strong. In the next 12, 18 months we could be 50,000, 55,000, based on the opportunities out there,” Epstein underscored..
Both Henry and Epstein were elated over the 600 stakeholders from across 16 different countries who signed up for participation in the event, regarded as Jamaica's first virtual reality conference and expo.