Planned Jamaica call centre now a run-down goat house
(Jamaica Observer) Seven years after government spent more than J$143 million to acquire the Goodyear factory in St Thomas with the stated intention of opening a call centre, the run-down facility lies idle, providing shelter for goats.
This, as residents bemoan the lack of employment opportunities in this Eastern parish which has suffered a major hit from closures in the banana and sugar cane industries.
Many, especially the youth, had harboured hope that the plans to convert a section of the Goodyear tyre factory, which closed in 1997, to a call centre would have injected new life and job growth into the parish.
In 2005, then Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology Phillip Paulwell had announced that the call centre would be established, following the refurbishing of the building. Paulwell, who now has responsibility for science, telecommunications, energy and mining, told the Jamaica Observer North East last week that the facility is now owned by the Factories Corporation of Jamaica and falls under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
He explained that the call centre plan has been long shelved. He said that at the time of the announcement, talks has been ongoing with investors out of India to relocate a number of their call centres to Jamaica, but that they later decided against it.
“The people we were in touch with later lost interest and then the elections intervened and that was the end of that,” he said.
There are, however, other things afoot, Paulwell indicated.
“I gather there is some interest being shown to do some other things with the facility,” he said.
Residents, meanwhile, feel they are being shafted.
Jermaine Francis of Chesick said had the call centre got off the ground, it would have been a major answer to the unemployment in the parish, especially for young persons like himself.
“Is like wi on the back burner because nutten nah turn since dem come and have big opening fi di Tech Village and say they would educate wi to work in the information centre and train wi to do certain skills, we no hear nutten more,” he bemoaned.
Gladstone Sharmah, a resident of Shady Spring in White Horses, said since the closure of the Goodyear factory, the employment options are now limited to the Seprod factory, supermarkets, hardware stores in Yallahs and Morant Bay, as well as the quarries and utility companies.