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MONTEGO BAY — Jamaica's efforts to create more jobs for its citizens got a major boost Thursday September 8, with the official opening of the Sir Richard Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, in Bogue, Montego Bay, which is committed to growing businesses in the Caribbean.

The centre, established by British billionaire, Sir Richard Branson, at a cost of some US$3.5 million, is operated by Virgin Unite, the non-profit arm of his Virgin Group, and Virgin Holidays, and is also supported by independent benefactors, including Chris Blackwell, founder of Island Records.

The Branson Centre, which is equipped with the latest computer technology, opened its doors to its first 14 budding entrepreneurs Thursday, making a commitment to support their drive for success in business. It will provide them with a launch pad for their businesses, and create a platform for job creation across the Caribbean.

Speaking at the function, Sir Richard Branson, noted that the foundation hopes to use the centre to create hundreds of jobs and grow businesses for the sustainability of the Caribbean.

"This is a growing priority, not just in the region but globally, certainly in the western world. Communities need entrepreneurships to take the risks. They need entrepreneurs to create new pathways to the future,” Sir Richard said.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, endorsed the centre, and noted that it is expected to bring a structure that will unleash Jamaican entrepreneurial talent.

"It is an excellent initiative. Jamaica certainly has tremendous possibilities, and we have demonstrated that in a number of areas. We have very talented people and very excellent areas that those talents can be applied in order to create goods and services for profit,” Dr. Tufton said.

"We have demonstrated that in our spices, for example, in our music and in other forms of industry, and what this Branson Centre will bring to that, is a structure that allows for the unleashing of talent in a way that is organized and that can create opportunities,” he stated.

Dr. Tufton said that what the centre has set out to do ‘fits nicely’ into the mandate of the Government, and pledged its full support. He said that the Government was determined to put a framework in place to help the centre succeed.

"From this standpoint, there is a synergy there that is important, and we plan to work with preserving this," he told JIS News.

The Montego Bay-based centre is the second of its kind, globally. The first was launched by Virgin Unite in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2005. It focuses on helping entrepreneurs to develop into business leaders, by offering a network of support, mentoring, coaching and skills training. It also supports new businesses to grow, by providing strategic advice from experts, and help them to find new markets.

                                               

By Glenis Rose, JIS Reporter