Gov’t commits to improving legal framework for BPOs

MONTEGO BAY, St James — State minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Homer Davis says the Government is committed to improving supportive legislative framework for the already booming business process outsourcing (BPO) sector which will, in turn, attract more foreign investors to create jobs for Jamaicans.

“The Government will continue to build infrastructural capacity to attract higher value-added global service sector investment on the island. We will continue to improve the supportive legislative framework as we believe that the creation of a stable and fertile economic environment will attract even more investors and provide a steady income for our citizens,” stated Davis.

He said the BPO sector, which employs more than 57,000 people and contributes just under $1 billion in foreign exchange earnings annually, is expected to go beyond just call centre operations and will encapsulate what is popularly called non-service sector. This shift requires an advanced level of analytical and technical skills, he said.

Davis, who was addressing the grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Omni Nearshore BPO company’s new home last Friday, said the BPO sector must be commended for its performance to date.

“I must offer heartiest congratulations to the players in the business process outsourcing industry who have continued to play their part in ensuring it sees continued growth. Despite the negative impact of COVID-19, employment has increased from approximately 48,000… to over 54,000,” stated Davis.

He also commended Gloria Henry, a director of the Global Services Association and the Port Authority of Jamaica’s vice-president of BPO and logistics, for her role in the sector’s success.

Omni Nearshore, which is operated by American First Finance, began operations in December 2020 in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic. One year later it had grown to 85 employees from its location in the BPO incubator inside the Montego Bay Freezone. Since then, the company has grown its staff complement to 150 and is anticipating ending 2022 with 250 on staff. The company’s new home is capable of accommodating up to 300 employees.

“We signed a lease for 17,142 square feet of space at the new Barnett Business Centre back in January of 2022 — a 300-seat space in this very beautiful building, thanks to Mark Kerr-Jarrett, our developer. We were able to secure our SEZ [special economic zone] operating certificate in early June 2022, thanks to the partnership with our developer Mark Kerr-Jarrett and Shelly-Ann Josephs who assisted with that process,” said senior site director, Marie Whyte.

“Operations commenced in the new space on Monday, June 27 and by July 22 we were able to transition all of our employees into the new space,” she added.

Whyte also commended the company’s investors.

“Thanks to Tom Nusspickel, Doug Rippel, and Howard Hambleton for investing in Jamaica and our people. Over US$2.2 million was spent to build out our new site. I am so excited for all that’s to come,” she added.

President of American First Finance, Howard Hambleton had high praise for local employees.

“I can tell you that I have never heard more customers compliment our team members here in Montego Bay than I have ever heard in any other call centres that I have been to. That is the proof in the pudding,” stated Hambleton.

The company currently operates three other companies overseas.

Member of Parliament for St James West Central Marlene Malahoo Forte, in whose constituency the Barnett Business Centre is located, congratulated Kerr Jarrett for his vision.

“As I came into the facilities I smiled because it is such an example of the first class infrastructure that we [Government] have envisioned for our development goals for achievement by 2030. Congratulations for facilitating the premises so that Howard and Tom could have chosen so well,” stated Malahoo Forte.

She reassured those gathered that she and her councillor for the Spring Gardens Division, Dwight Crawford stand ready “to make necessary representation on behalf of all our constituents because we know that dealing with Government is not always the easiest thing to do”.

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