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The Competitiveness Company is playing an integral role in bringing together players across a number of industries, as it seeks to foster a more market-research driven and collaborative approach in ensuring the viability and sustainability of these sectors. The company was born out of the two-year Jamaica Cluster Competitiveness Project (JCCP), which Head of the company, Dr. Beverly Morgan says was, “very successful, because it engaged lots of firms across a wide spectrum and we worked with them to improve their competitiveness”. “Having done that, our concern at the time was that if you keep being donor-funded with two-year projects, how do you provide the services to the enterprises that they require in an on-going way? So, what the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA) wanted to do was to have a company that provides these services, so that we would make it sustainable, institutionalized, and make it not forever dependent on international consultants and that’s how we came to be the Competitiveness Company, which is a subsidiary of the JEA,” she adds.
Hundreds of companies were signed on to the JCCP, which set out to take the country into new and profitable frontiers by leveraging its world-famous brands and culture, thereby making local firms more internationally competitive and fostering economic growth. The Project’s targets were: national competitiveness culture, to facilitate the development of a shared competitiveness vision and strategy at the cluster and national level; strengthening competitiveness clusters, which required working with three or more clusters to facilitate networking and to enhance competitiveness at the intra and inter firm levels; improving service provision, which required the strengthening of local capacity to continue this analytical and technical support; improving the wider environment for business; and creating an appropriate forum for stakeholder dialogue.
“My dream was to provide a nurturing and challenging space, so that we would make at least a small contribution to stemming the tide of the brain drain and reversing it if we could. We have done, in a small way, our contribution to that. We have recruited some very smart and educated young people to this end. They have a deep concern with the development of their country. It matters to them, and they have the character to be able to convert that caring into sustained ethical and high quality action,” Dr. Morgan tells JIS News.
Among the innovative young persons that the company has employed is Competitiveness Advisor, Anneke Hamilton. She explains that, “we have been working with the entertainment industry through Jamaica Signature Beats (JSB), which is a follow-on from the JCCP project. Jamaica Signature Beats was created to sustain the efforts of the entertainment cluster. It represents music studios, music producers, film producers and artistes and musicians”. The JSB was created to collectively market the technical expertise of musicians in Jamaica. “It’s a collective marketing effort through which, if a producer in the United States or in Europe wants to come down to Jamaica and get an authentic sound, such as reggae, there is an agency through which they can link with these different industry players, whether it be a producer, the studio, an artiste or even a sound engineer,” Miss Hamilton explains. Therefore, one of the key areas in which the company has been involved is working with persons within the industry, “because we recognize that in order to supply this type of initiative, we have to ensure that it is of the best quality”, she notes. To this end, the company has hosted a number of workshops, including a sound engineering session, which was well-supported. “It focused on analogue and digital recording. We had a local person do the analogue recording and we were able to get two persons from an overseas company, which deals specifically with the software, to come and do a live demonstration. There was also an interactive session, where persons were able to see what is happening in terms of where the technology is going, as well as ask questions and gather more information,” Miss Hamilton tells JIS News.
There was also a forum on Intellectual Property (IP) and royalties. “One of the things that we gathered from persons in the industry is that there is a lot of royalties out there that persons in the industry are not collecting, that the actual process to collect aren’t known. So at that workshop we actually had an IP lawyer come in and someone from Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers (JACAP) to impart information to the persons within the industry as well as have an interactive session where persons could ask questions and get feedback where that is concerned,” Miss Hamilton says. There is also a major thrust to have JSB represented at the world’s biggest exposition, MIDEM, which is hosted in Cannes, France in January of each year. The expo attracts some 10,000 delegates in the industry from nearly 100 countries. These delegates include persons in the recording, publishing, live, sync, digital and mobile sectors. “One of the things that we are looking at is marketing and promoting what we have to offer here as entertainment to the world. Right now we are gathering steam and looking forward to representing Jamaica at that expo,” she tells JIS News. She emphasizes that the company aims to increase the prosperity of individual firms and the cluster approach is definitely one of the ways through which this can happen.
“We have the advantage of being a third party also. Our work and our concern is that other people do well and that I think helps to reduce a lot of the barriers and suspicion that might be there,” Dr. Morgan remarks.
Meanwhile, Nadiya Figueroa, who is also a Competitiveness Advisor, also stresses the importance and success of cluster work in the agro-business sector. “When we talk about what we are trying to become excellent in, I think of cluster work and the cluster methodology, which is a particular way of growing industries. I also think of market analysis,” she says. The first cluster which was mobilized, is the West Indian Sea Island Cotton cluster. “We look for players all along the value chain, in understanding that in taking any high quality product or service to the marketplace, it takes not just the primary producer, it takes the processor, the distributor, the market specialist and those who are willing to finance. It takes trying to pull those people into a room and to get over the ethos that we oftentimes have in business. It takes everyone playing their part to grow an industry,” she tells JIS News. Miss Figueroa adds that with West Indian Sea Island Cotton, there is a clear competitive advantage. In 2004, there were some 250 acres of cotton under cultivation and in 2006, in order to increase mobilization efforts, there were more than 600 acres under cultivation. “What we have always heard is that as much cotton as can be produced, Europe is willing to buy it. But one of the hallmarks of the company is doing rigorous market analysis, so a team of five persons went throughout Europe visiting multiple countries from England to Switzerland and Italy to speak with persons who are interested in buying the cotton, to really substantiate that demand. The results of that trip were very exciting.(the demand for) some 600,000 pounds of cotton were substantiated,” she notes.
Further, she says the team was also able to find out more about the work that needed to be done to further develop the industry. “So, part of the process is really going to the market and finding out what the specific needs are, so that we can take that information in and really have very specific intervention,” Miss Figueroa adds. Linkages are essential to successful cluster work and as such, the company has involved members of the scientific community, many of whom have been doing work on West Indian Sea Island Cotton to enhance the practice of cultivating cotton. “Again, we are seeing how when there are multiple people working on an effort, it really improves the quality of the product that we are taking to the market and that’s what the cluster methodology is all about,” she tells JIS News. Competitiveness Advisor, D’Oyen Williams who works in the area of ornamental fish, says this sector has been receiving some media coverage lately. “We have partnered with an international agency to really create the industry. This cluster is the youngest and a lot of the work that we are doing is ground work in creating a kind of collaborative environment, where not only the farmers, but the supporting agencies, the micro farmers in the inner cities, and the larger farmers, can all come together and work toward a common strategy and a common goal,” he tells JIS News. Much focus in this cluster is on production technologies, sensitizing fish farmers to the need for substantiated market data, and pointing them in a direction on which they can all agree. “We have done a market research trip to the Unites States (Florida), which is the main market for ornamental fish. It is our closest market and it’s the one where we believe we would have the greatest competitive advantage,” he explains.
The company has also sought to assist the farmers in getting exposure, through activities such as the inaugural national ornamental fish exposition, which was held in October last year. “We have also have done work in intervention-based technical assistance. We got two aquaculture specialists to come and visit micro farmers in inner city farms to actually tell them what are the technical specifics that they need, how they can use low-cost items and materials to actually get the best out of it, and increase their quality, as well as have the operations run a little more smoothly,” Mr. Williams informs. He says local farmers are quite interested in this niche market. “One of the things we found is that despite the operational inefficiencies and the financial and infrastructure constraints, the one thing that makes these persons stand out is their dedication to what they are doing. They are also highly innovative and creative,” he notes. Mr. Williams tells JIS News that opportunities have in fact been identified locally and internationally and, while the local market is not sufficiently supported, “what we think is most important to acting on any of these opportunities, is collaboration”. “It is of great importance to have larger farmers networking with smaller farmers and getting supplementary supplies from them. So more important than the opportunities is the collaboration in order to create the capacity to act on them (opportunities),” he adds. He estimates that locally, the US multi-million dollar industry is worth some $6 million annually on the production end. The JCCP came to an end in 2004, while the Competitiveness Company was established in 2005.
Dr. Morgan informs that the company is fully funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID for the first two years. “This is to enable us to go out and earn money and so our goal is to use this two-year period, more than a year of which has passed, to have enough in the bank to ensure that we have another two years in the kitty, so we can go out and work and build gradually, and we are pretty much there,” she tells JIS News.