• Feature
    Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, engages with residents of St. Thomas, at the ground breaking ceremony for the Morant Bay Town Centre project on June 26.
    Photo: Rudranath Fraser

    Story Highlights

    • The Morant Bay Town Centre development is generating excitement among investors and residents, based on the opportunity for business expansion, employment creation and economic transformation of the parish of St. Thomas.
    • The $4 billion undertaking for which Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, broke ground on June 26, involves development of an integrated industrial and commercial complex encompassing 365,000 square feet of space to house key public and private sector services.
    • It is expected to create approximately 3,000 new jobs and generate billions in private investment.

    The Morant Bay Town Centre development is generating excitement among investors and residents, based on the opportunity for business expansion, employment creation and economic transformation of the parish of St. Thomas.

    The $4 billion undertaking for which Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, broke ground on June 26, involves development of an integrated industrial and commercial complex encompassing 365,000 square feet of space to house key public and private sector services.

    It is expected to create approximately 3,000 new jobs and generate billions in private investment.

    Business Unit Head, B-H Paints, Radcliffe Myers, tells JIS News that his company is looking to establish a retail store at the complex.

    “We’re excited about the whole development because our company does not have a strong presence in that part of the island. We see it as an opportunity to expand our presence. Our board of directors is very excited about the development,” Mr. Myers tells JIS News.

    “We have a few staff members, who live in the area and we know (the challenges), and so, it’s really exciting to see what the Government is doing. Certainly, we at B-H Paints are going to capitalise on the opportunity to expand our business,” Mr. Myers adds.

    Group Executive Chairman at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC), Dr. Winston Adams, tells JIS News that the development will provide space for the institution to establish a branch campus and expand its Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) operation.

    “We’re hoping to be a part of it, as we seek to create opportunities for Jamaicans. We see it as a way for Jamaica to develop its potential for human resource development and for export, so we are looking forward to the next phase, which follows the groundbreaking,” he says.

    The Morant Bay Town Centre involves development of a new urban centre just outside the existing town, on the 25-acre property where the old Goodyear factory is located.
    It will house the St. Thomas Municipal Corporation; a town hall; conference centre; justice square, which will include a family court and parish court; tax office; Registrar General’s Department (RGD); and the Passport, Citizenship & Immigration Agency (PICA).

    Also included in the plan are spaces for financial institutions; food court; library; medical centre; wellness centre; day care; tertiary-level institutions; shopping facilities; purpose-built manufacturing and industrial space for small, medium and large enterprises; museum; recreational park; and a BPO facility.

    The project is being implemented by the Factories Corporation of Jamaica (FCJ) and is scheduled for completion in 2021.

    Mayor of Morant Bay, Councillor Michael Hue, tells JIS News that the project, along with the Southern Road Improvement Programme, “has the potential to transform St. Thomas into the new economic zone.”

    Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness (centre), breaks ground for the Morant Bay Town Centre project on June 26. Others (from left) are: Member of Parliament, Western St. Thomas, James Robertson; Chinese Ambassador to Jamaica, His Excellency Tian Qi; Mayor of Morant Bay, Councillor Michael Hue; Chairman, Factories Corporation of Jamaica, Lyttleton ‘Tanny’ Shirley; President, China Harbour Engineering Company Limited, Dr. Zhimin Hu; and Member of Parliament, Eastern St. Thomas, Dr. Fenton Ferguson.

    “It is one that the entire parish has been waiting for and this demonstrates to investors in and outside the parish, that it is now time to recognise St. Thomas as the place to invest in for years to come,” Mr. Hue says.

    St. Thomas 2019 Festival Queen, Dru-Lissa Grant, shares that she is excited about the development and what it will mean for the parish.
    “It’s a great feeling. As a young person, it’s overwhelming to see this change being made,” she says, noting that it will generate new job opportunities for the youth.

    Meanwhile, 89-year old resident, Eunice Edmund, in welcoming the project, says “it will benefit my children and grandchildren.”

    Another long-time resident of the parish, Marcel Clarke, tells JIS that the development will ease congestion and bring order to Morant Bay, as government entities and other prime businesses will be located in one central space just outside of the town.

    “The town is compact, it’s tight and everyone has this mindset that everything has to be done in the heart of Morant Bay. But…for us to expand, we must step outside the town,” he notes.

    Yvette Bell agrees, noting that “Morant Bay is an old town, the streets are narrow, so there is not much space for expansion…to facilitate new businesses.”