New US$30-m technology park for St Catherine

Sunday, May 27, 2018

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A local company is developing a US$30 -million ($3.8-billion) technology park in Marlie Mount, St Catherine.

The project, Marlie Technology Park, is a subsidiary of Marlie Technology Park Jamaica Limited and is slated to be fully operational in November with a 3,500-seat business process outsourcing (BPO) facility on a 68-acre property.

The operation, though, will be implemented on a phased basis with the opening of a 300-seat facility by September, hiring 20 individuals to carry out operations during the first phase.

Previously owned by the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Marlie Technology Park will also comprise a training centre in addition to the already existing 2,000-seat conference hall, office complex, a well, and water treatment facility.

Media and Community Engagement Officer Travis Bartley told the Jamaica Observer that the second phase of the project will see the implementation of an assembly line for small-scale manufacturing, a boutique hotel, technology adventure park, innovation centre, women in tech centre, youth innovation hub, centre for technology commercialisation, training centre, and international data centre.

“We are targeting a women- in-technology facility because many of the European clients want female entrepreneurs and the tech industry is now ripe for investing,” he said, adding that the plan is to help more women from St Catherine or Clarendon, who may have gone into farming, to tap into the tech market.

Ultimately, Marlie Technology wants to generate income from rental of its BPO centre and conference hall for corporate events and treats; but the company plans on boosting revenue earnings from the accommodation of guests as well as the rental of its facilities for photography and videography services.

The Park will also offer concierge BPO services, child-care facilities, a medical office, restaurant, mechanic shop, and ATM.

“Discussions are currently being carried out with a number of regional and international companies. The final contractual agreements will be developed later this year, Chief Executive Officer Valrie Grant told Sunday Finance.

Marlie Technology is also looking to list on the Jamaica Stock Exchange, giving Jamaicans the opportunity to invest in the company. While not settled on the date and how much it will be looking to raise in capital, the CEO noted that the initial public offering should take place by the end of 2019.

As for the Old Harbour, St Catherine location, Grant said the company is not concerned about its proximity to Kingston, as the target market for its predominant business, the BPO sector, is international clients who only require people on the ground to handle accounts.

“Also, most of the people in Old Harbour have been left without jobs because they have to come into Kingston or go to Montego Bay. So we are creating jobs, and when you think of the school leavers, what they need is something that's going to be creative and stimulate them,” she said.

In recent years, Jamaica has been aggressively developing technology parks to facilitate the fast-growing BPO industry. Last September, Musson Group broke ground on a US$30-million investment at 58 Half-Way-Tree Road in St Andrew.

Two months later, the operators of Barnett Tech Park, which provides space for operators in the BPO sector, announced that they had spent US$10 million for the year 2017 to construct two buildings spanning 100,000 square feet.

The expansion was expected to take the total productive capacity of the Barnett Tech Park to 315,000 square feet, according to Managing Director Mark Kerr-Jarrett.

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