- The Montego Bay Free Zone in St. James holds pride of place as being the largest facilitator of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services in Jamaica.
- Approximately 17 firms currently operate out of well over 100,000 sq. ft. of space, and growing, with a workforce of approximately 7,000 persons, and counting.
- Assistant Vice President in charge of the Free Zone, Gloria Henry, tells JIS News that the BPO industry’s growth has positioned the Free Zone as the second largest employer in western Jamaica comprising the parishes of St. James, Trelawny, Hanover, and Westmoreland.
The Montego Bay Free Zone in St. James holds pride of place as being the largest facilitator of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) services in Jamaica.
Approximately 17 firms currently operate out of well over 100,000 sq. ft. of space, and growing, with a workforce of approximately 7,000 persons, and counting.
Assistant Vice President in charge of the Free Zone, Gloria Henry, tells JIS News that the BPO industry’s growth has positioned the Free Zone as the second largest employer in western Jamaica comprising the parishes of St. James, Trelawny, Hanover, and Westmoreland.
“The Montego Bay Free Zone is, this year, celebrating 30 years of service to Jamaica’s economy, and is pleased to continue to support the BPO industry as we look forward to further growth. We continue to deepen our partnerships with various agencies both public and private, and are truly pleased to be now working with the BPO Incubator which is a larger project being implemented to bring ‘unprecedented’ growth in the BPO industry,” she says.
The Business Process Outsourcing Cluster Initiative Incubator, which is slated to come on stream in March, is a $57 million (US$500,000) engagement, being financed through a grant provided under the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) Compete Caribbean Programme.
The grant is being allocated through the Business Process Industry Association of Jamaica (BPIAJ), which applied for technical assistance support to establish the call centre incubator in the Montego Bay Free Zone, which can accommodate activities for some 200 entities.
The facility will lend support to the start-up operations of newly established ICT/BPO entities, and expand the activities of existing organizations.
Addressing journalists in Montego Bay recently, State Minister for Industry, Investment, and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abraham said the Incubator is expected to spur further growth in the BPO industry.
She indicated that the Free Zone has already identified the first client and was already “having discussions with two other interested companies.”
In noting that the Free Zone had an “unfilled demand” for 75,000 sq. ft. of space, as at October 2014, the State Minister said the Board of Directors approved conversion of a factory to create some 66,000 sq. ft. of additional space.
She further advised that “the Barnett Technology Park has built a new 50,000 sq. ft. office for the Business Processing Outsourcing (BPO) Industry and will be constructing another 150,000 sq. ft. of space in the near future.”
Additionally, the Government is working to increase employment in the BPO sector to 24,000 in the short-term.
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of the ITEL Business Process Outsourcing (ITEL BPO) Solutions, Yoni Epstein, is of the view that once companies are able to capitalize on the opportunity for unlimited access to human capital, and more private companies and entities respond to the call for more investments to fill the demand for additional space, then there could soon be the birth of a revolutionized business environment in the Montego Bay Free Zone.
“The Montego Bay Free Zone now has a lot of factory space that can be retrofitted and we have seen what call centres and other companies have done in retrofitting these factory spaces and this can really change the landscape of the western region. I also think that we should begin to focus on the Kingston and Mandeville areas because, as we grow, Montego Bay may not be able to handle a lot more. There is surely ample space and human capital in these areas and we need to look at diversifying our product offerings across the island,” Mr. Epstein told JIS News.
Meanwhile, Mr. Epstein has attributed the rapid and significant growth of the BPO industry to “the (sustained) drive (to this end) by the BPIAJ and the Government of Jamaica.”
“I think that there are tremendous opportunities for the sector to continue to grow; (but) there are some things that are necessary for this to continue to happen, for us to achieve the numbers that we would like to have. Firstly there must be access to the human capital. We need to make sure that, as an industry and a government, we are putting resources into the right places such as the HEART Trust/NTA, to ensure that we continue to have skilled labourers to engage in work within the sector. Without the (skilled) people, we have no industry,” Mr. Epstein underscores.
He says his company is ranked among the fastest growing BPO entities, having moved from an initial five employees to in excess of 300, within three years.
In order for similar growth to take place within other entities, Mr. Epstein is suggesting a transfer of business from the Free Zone economy to the country’s domestic economy.
“There must be the development of some type of strategy that will bring the two economies more in line…and this comes back to competitiveness. Jamaica has to be more competitive or else we are not going to experience much growth in this sector,” Mr. Epstein contends.
Another BPO success story in the Montego Bay Free Zone is the growth of Global Gateway Solutions Inc. which was established in 2007 with five employees in 5,000 sq. ft. space. The company’s operations have since expanded, and currently operates out of 50,000 sq. ft. of space, with a workforce of over 800 persons.
“As we continue to evolve in the call centre space, there are tremendous opportunities for Jamaica, not just in the current services that we provide, but in gaining additional recognition,” President and Chief Executive Officer, Jacqueline Sutherland states.