JIS News

Prospects for increased trade between Jamaica and Minnesota in the United States (US) have been significantly enhanced, with the staging of a trade and investment seminar in Minneapolis on Monday (Jan. 23).
The event was organized by the Jamaica Minnesota Organization (JMO) in collaboration with the Minnesota Trade Office and was designed to acquaint businesses in Minneapolis and the neigbouring St. Paul business district, with investment opportunities in Jamaica, and also provide an overview of the island’s economic climate.
Attendees included several key entities in the travel and hospitality sectors such as Northwest Airlines and the Carlson companies, whose family of brands include major industry players such as Radisson Hotels and Resorts, Seven Seas Cruises, as well as the restaurant chain T.G.I. Friday’s, which has a franchise in Jamaica.
Ambassador to the US Professor Gordon Shirley, who was instrumental in arranging the event, described the seminar as “a clear indication of a new commitment to country on the part of the Jamaican Diaspora and underscores a new zest and energy by Jamaicans across the United States to more meaningfully participate in our country’s economic and social development.”
Professor Shirley noted that the growing partnership between the government and the Diaspora in generating new investment for Jamaica, meant that Jamaicans abroad had become “even more meaningful stakeholders in Jamaica’s future economic advancement and, like Jamaicans at home, are an integral part of the economic expansion currently underway in the island.”
He further observed that the involvement of the Jamaican Diaspora afforded the country “additional options in our quest to effectively market our country and to ensure that investors are made aware of the many opportunities, which exist on the Jamaican investment landscape.”
The seminar, which was led by Melvin Smith, Regional Manager for North American Markets for JAMPRO, covered a broad range of sectors and highlighted specific investment projects and companies seeking to establish joint-venture partnerships.
He outlined a range of key areas such as information technology, tourism and manufacturing, which stood to benefit from increased foreign investment and provided the participants with a detailed summary of recent advances in upgrading the country’s infrastructure, as well as efforts to increase electrical capacity in order to facilitate growth and expansion in new and existing industries.
Pointing to opportunities in telecommunications, Mr. Smith mentioned beneficial and sustained investment in informatics services, ranging from basic data entry to multimedia and software development as well as the establishment of call centres.
He further cited significant new investments in the tourism sector primarily by Spanish firms such as the RIU Group and the Iberostar chain, while noting that Jamaica was ripe for even greater levels of investment in heritage and eco-tourism.
The Jamaican delegation, which also included Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy in Washington, Sharon Miller; and Community Relations Officer, Janet Madden, also held meetings with senior executives of the grocery retailing giant, Supervalu, Inc., whose corporate offices are located in the city of Minneapolis.
The meeting, which was organized by the JMO, explored ways in which the embassy, in concert with Jamaican community organizations across the US, could work with Supervalu to ensure that food products manufactured and packaged in Jamaica could become available in the vast network of supermarkets operated by the company.
Supervalu is the second largest food distributor in the US and has been in business since 1870. During the meetings on Monday, company executives also appraised the Jamaican delegation of an agreement to acquire the Albertson’s Food Group for $17.4 billion.
Subsequent to discussions with Supervalu, the trade mission was hosted by Councilman Don Samuels, a Jamaican-born member of the City Council of Minneapolis, who also introduced the delegation to the mayor, as well as other municipal and legislative leaders.
The trade seminar represented the latest trade-related programme organized by the Jamaican Diaspora in the US ensuing from the Diaspora conference held in Kingston in June 2004. A specific mandate of the conference was the establishment of state trade councils across the US, which would seek to promote trade and investment in Jamaica. To date, trade councils have been established in the states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and California.