Kerr-Jarrett to break ground on ICT facility in January

MARK Kerr-Jarrett will make available for investors a 50,000-square foot facility on his 48-acre business process outsourcing (BPO) development complex in Montego Bay.

Kerr-Jarrett will break ground for the US$8.5-million ($874 million) facility in January, with construction expected to be completed in 10 months. It will be an empty shell, but will feature broadband with fibre optic cabling. There will also be a dedicated power supply from the Jamaica Public Service (JPS) Bogue Power Station as well as standby power.

Clients will build out their own interior to suit their specifications. Kerr-Jarrett is looking to rent the first space, but hasn't ruled out a joint venture partnership with an operator. Even still, the developer says he is confident that once ground is broken, he will have a tenant.

"We do have a couple of specific entities we hope to be talking to in the near future about renting the space and Jampro is actively pursuing potential tenants for us too," said the managing director of Barnett Limited.

It's part of a wider plan to develop the 48-acre Barnett Tech Park, the commercial side of a larger 400-acre development that includes 1,200 homes, and tertiary institution to be located on land adjoining the tech park — lands that had sugar cane for two centuries.

Former senator, Dr Christopher Tufton, consultant to the company and Kerr-Jarrett's wife, Paula, a director in Barnett Limited are actively looking for investors who want to partner with the company to build out more space, he added.

"What we would like to do is build in the fashion and at the rate to ensure that we have at least 100,000 square feet, sitting down ready at anytime," Kerr-Jarrett explained. "Because if we have that, there will be more opportunities."

What's more, he hopes that a few pension funds and private investors will come in on an equity basis -- as each entity that the company builds out will be operated by a limited liability company with its own shareholding structure.

"The feedback has been good, we have been speaking to about three different institutions," he told the Caribbean Business Report.

The size of Jamaica's young BPO market is approximately US$300 million, just six per cent of the Caribbean and Latin American markets.

Some global industry watchers have indicated that Jamaica could aggressively push to address the growing needs of 15 per cent of the near-shore market business, and by so doing, could yield job creation numbers of some 29,000 jobs, according to Diane Edwards, president of Jampro. The state entity has attracted most of the over 30 outsourcing companies currently on the island, which employ over 14,000 people.

"From 20 years ago, we saw the ICT industry as the next big employer for Jamaicans and we have been driving at it ever since," Kerr-Jarrett said in an emotional address at the signing of the contract to build out the space with Kier Construction on Wednesday at Jampro's head office.

The transition from farming to developing the ICT infrastructure hasn't been easy, he said.

"When you look at it, operating as a farm, we were employing somewhere of about 150 persons on nearly 200 acres, we are now going to be creating employment for over 1,500 people in over 50,000 square feet, which is just over an acre," he said.

Because of its strategic location — land covering major areas of Montego Bay such as Westgate, and areas leading to Reading and Adelphi -- Kerr-Jarrett said he looked at the best use of the land.

"As the land owners we must act as trustees and stewards and release the land and develop it in a matter that is most befitting and will create the most opportunity and wealth for the Jamaican people," he told this newspaper.

Barnett Tech Park has the capacity to hold 10,000 seats, yielding 36,000 jobs on three shifts, and with 135,000 square feet of space to facilitate commercial services such as toddler care services, canteen, doctor's office, banking and fitness centre.

The company sold a couple of lots to Vistaprint Jamaica, the customer service centre for parent company Vistaprint -- one of the world's leading online design and print solution providers.

Though Montego Bay has been troubled with crime, including the lottery scam, Kerr-Jarrett believes that Barnett Tech Park will create thousands of new jobs and the crime will be reduced.

"If we wait for everything to be perfect we would never get started... there will be viable livelihood options to scamming and other illegal activities," he said.

Jamaica Observer
Published Date: 
Friday, November 29, 2013