RLJ Companies To Bring Jobs, Build Homes In Haiti
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue



RLJ Companies announced Monday that it will team up with manufacturing company Global Building Solutions to develop quick and cost-effective mass housing in Haiti following the country’s January earthquake.


The venture, which will be known as Caribbean Opportunity Holdings, is planning to build a structured insulated panel (SIP) manufacturing facility in the area near Cap-Haitien, Haiti’s second-largest city.

“We know that putting a manufacturing facility in-country as opposed to shipping all of the materials…from outside will create more jobs and make it cheaper to make the houses,” said Lisa Pickrum, chief operating officer of RLJ Companies, which was founded by Robert L. Johnson. “We have found that sustainable projects that help people in the long term… only come about and are maintained when you move beyond aid into profit sharing businesses.”

Johnson also launched RLJ Development L.L.C. (No. 8 on the BE Industrial/Service list with $605.2 million in revenue) and is the creator of Black Entertainment Television.

Most buildings in Haiti are made of concrete blocks, which tend to crumble in hurricane or earthquake conditions. The SIP technology is uniquely applicable to Haiti because it is waterproof, humidity resistant, resistant to earthquakes up to magnitude 7.0, and lightweight.

Caribbean Opportunity Holdings will produce the pre-engineered and exportable building materials in Cap-Haitien, about 130 miles north of Port-au Prince, where the magnitude 7.0 earthquake killed an estimated 230,000 people in January and left 1.3 million survivors homeless and living in tent camps.

“We chose [Cap-Haitien] as a place that would be able to sustain some job creation and tourism,” says Pickrum. Scores of displaced people are moving to Cap-Haitien, putting a lot of economic strain on the province.

The project will also serve Port-au-Prince since the building materials created at the plant can be shipped by barge or truck to help build infrastructure across all of Haiti.

Pickrum declined to give the cost of the facility, but estimated that it would be a multimillion dollar budget that would create 150 to 300 jobs in that location. COH will profit by selling construction and building materials to nonprofit organizations and donors. Although, the return will not be large initially, Pickrum says the increased infrastructure will pave the way for longer term tourism developments like hotels.

The two companies have a track record of constructing projects where infrastructure is scarce. GBS partnered with RLJ Companies in 2008 to build a four-star luxury resort and spa in Monrovia, Liberia, in less than 12 months. The RLJ Kendeja Resort & Villas, a 78-room villa style hotel, which opened March 2009, was the first hotel construction completed in Liberia in twenty-five years.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.

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