international awards in several sectors.” Chin says. “What some of our entrepreneurs need.” she continues. “is to marry their keen business acumen, expertise and competitive advantages with foreign capital, technology and market access.” Chin cites the production of jams, jellies, condiments and sauces as an area open to joint ventures.
With over 300 garment factories (the U.S. and Jamaica have a bilateral tetile agreement), opportunities for management contracting and subcontracting exist. Manufacturing–mainly assembling–contributed 18.2% to Jamaica’s gross domestic product in 1995–with more than 90% of the apparel exported to the U.S.
Gloria Hartley, professor of fashion buying and merchandising at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, says business owners can take their expertise to Jamaica and work with the economic development center on targeting the American market in the areas of design and marketing: “The manufacturer overseas has to understand who the customer is–their psychographics and demographics. They have to understand the needs of the customer first and foremost.”
If your interest leans toward the grassroots level, you can get in on the ground floor of horticulture as an investment opportunity. Tropical flowers, ornamental fish and fruits like papaya offer limited export opportunities. If you lack the knowledge of flora but have an interest in Jamaica’s topography, you can explore possibilities in tourism. Growing areas include heritage tourism (exploring historic sites) and ecotourism.
Once you’ve gathered your research data and selected an area of exploitation, gear up for a lesson in cultural nuances. It’s an American fallacy that Jamaicans are not serious about conducting business–having a “come tomorrow attitude.” To avoid confusion over cultural differences, determine if the person you’re planning to barter with truly understands your business position as it relates to the competition. If you’re making comparisons, clarify which standards apply, Caribbean or American.
What makes Jamaica particularly attractive is that its government has a fairly liberal business incentive policy. There are no duties imposed on raw materials, no price controls and few import/export restrictions. Numerous tax acts have been passed to provide relief from company and income tax, including free zones where investors are also exempt from profit taxes.
In addition, a stable political and economic environment now engulfs Jamaica. According to the PRS Group, a Syracuse, New York-based strategic global planning firm, inflation in Jamaica, which was at 77.2% four years ago, has plunged to 22.5%. While the unemployment rate looms at 17.6%, there’s still a large pool of skilled workers (Jamaica has a literacy rate of 98%).
When doing business in Jamaica, there are a number of constraints to consider. Electricity costs are high, running upwards of 13 cents per kilowatt. Markets for available land and natural resources are small, and the government struggles withbureaucratic issues, such as reducing the time it takes to approve permits. Environmental factors such as hurricane season, which causes massive destruction, also pose a serious problem.
The third-largest Caribbean island, Jamaica is a desirable place to conduct business. Its close proximity–90 minutes from Miami and three and a half hours from New York City–and its