Today, the Jamaica Observer publishes the fifth story on the nominees for this year’s Business Leader Award. All nominees for the award are non-private sector entities that facilitate the growth and development of private companies in Jamaica.

The Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) has had, from inception, a special place at the table for public entities that are certified ‘friends of the private sector’.

The agency can trace its roots to 1983 when the merger of its three predecessors began to take shape. The process was completed in 1988 and JAMPRO was introduced to Jamaica as the new champion of private sector causes.

The forerunners — Jamaica National Investment Promotion, the Jamaica National Export Corporation, and the Jamaica Industrial Development Corporation — had all injected their DNA into the bloodstream of the new organisation.

The business facilitator is one partner in a coalition of State agencies that contribute to the country’s urgent national enterprise. It is the institutional adhesive within this grouping — the one that bring investors to the table to give effect to the work and infrastructure that the others have put in place to make Jamaica a good sell.

JAMPRO’s mandate is to break into the right investment circles and sell a vision of the island as a place that is welcoming of foreign capital and full of entrepreneurial possibilities. Its job is to align those business opportunities with the capital, risk profile and reward expectation of the presumptive investor so as to convert abstract expressions of interest into concrete project proposals.

Targeted approach has borne fruit, as was demonstrated with aplomb when Spain’s Riu family was persuaded to take the hotel brand that bears its name to Jamaica 10 years ago. The initial investment cascaded into the most significant decade of expansion in the history of the island’s tourism industry.

But in most instances, selling the country demands the old-school approach, and JAMPRO’s marketing teams have to beat pavements and knock on doors in North America and Europe. Their unerring presence at trade shows and seminars all over the world is also part of the deal.

These are important channels through which the agency is able to introduce local products to potential buyers and to reach out to investors with the hope of convincing them to take a favourable look at Jamaica. New media has also provided the organisation with another vital marketing tool for its global investment outreach.

JAMPRO’s work has no guaranteed outcome. The agency knows too well that getting the nod from a corporate boardroom or individual investor is only the first in a three-step process to full execution of the investment. There is always time and opportunity for even the most secure deal to permanently stall.

The country’s enervating bureaucracy is among the potential pitfalls — that can claim even the most promising investment project. For years JAMPRO has been shepherding its clients through this minefield and in more recent times, formalised this aspect of its business facilitation with the establishment of a fast-track facility at its Trafalgar Road, Kingston headquarters.

Here, many of the services that are needed to bring a project to fruition, including statutory requirements under the aegis of Customs and the Trade Board, can be accessed at this single location. The agency does not automatically move on from its clients once their business is up and running. It maintains close contact to ensure that the actual investor experience with doing business here is in sync with the promise, and that these business owners can be recruited as corporate ambassadors for the country.

There are some key indices that JAMPRO relies on to gauge the impact of its services and activities on the Jamaican economy. The dollar value of projects that it helps to consummate and the number of jobs they provide are the most important of the quantitative measures.

By the agency’s own calculation, over the past decade it has had a direct hand in $159 billion worth of projects that have gone into the ground in Jamaica. More than 73,000 jobs are directly connected to these investments.

Its role in attracting Riu to $700 million to set up shop in Jamaica. Collectively they employ some 13,000 full-time workers and generate annual export earnings of about US$200 million.

A large part of JAMPRO’s résumé is the role it plays in creating linkages between local producers and overseas buyers, and in helping companies break into new markets. For the past six years it has operated a business linkage programme through which local firms have achieved sales and entered into nearly 500 business contracts valued at $3.5 billion.

Events like the biennial Expo Jamaica and JAPEX are rich in opportunities for some of these connections. JAMPRO’s estimate is that its buyer recruitment initiatives, through which it promotes Jamaican-made products abroad, have helped generate J$20 billion in exports sales over the past five years. In June 2011 it created a special export programme from a $55-million technical grant and began by offering its business development and export promotion services to 15 manufacturing and agroprocessing firms. During the first year these firms generated sales and contracts worth over J$1 billion. JAMPRO plans to expand the programme next year.

Over the past 10 years the agency has also played an important role in advancing capacity-building projects in which over US$50 million in grants have been made available to fund various efforts at enhancing the competitiveness of entrepreneurs and private sector associations.

Thousands of interventions were made. JAMPRO is also a prodigious and respected researcher of trade issues and a reliable advocate for macroeconomic and trade policies that favour productive enterprise and many of its policy positions find their way in the Government’s annual budget documents.

Over the years it has won numerous recognitions and awards for the investments and promotional activities that it organises on behalf of Jamaica’s businesses.

Jamaica Observer
Published Date: 
Sunday, November 10, 2013