The Entrepreneur Weekly has been journeying through the island for the past few weeks as we highlight the heart of entrepreneurship beyond ‘town’. The industrious spirit of the island has always been a consistent feature throughout the nation’s history. The ability to make do with limited resources and create, lies within the very fabric of every parish. Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), Mr. Harold Davis noted “The entrepreneurial spirit is consistent whether in town or in the rural parts of the island, how we support entrepreneurs may be affected by the environment but entrepreneurship is the pulse of our economy.”
The parishes of St. Thomas and Portland take centre stage as we wrap up our islandwide tour of business beyond ‘town’. These two parishes are known for industries such as tourism, agriculture, forestry, fishing, manufacturing and retail. Let us look deeper into what each parish’s industries and ways of entrepreneurship are like.
Business in St. Thomas
St. Thomas boasts the beautiful Bath Botanical Gardens which happens to be the second oldest in the Western Hemisphere. The parish is home to beautiful mineral springs, beaches and rich historical sites such as Judgement Cliff and Morant Bay Courthouse. However, the mainstay of this parish is still largely agriculture. According to the Jamaica Legacy Project “Today, a few large areas are used for the cultivation of coconuts, sugarcane and bananas, but small farming is now the main agricultural practice in the parish. Despite changing weather patterns and occasional periods of drought, most crops do very well.”
Though agriculture is the bread and butter of this parish, the tourism industry has identified great potential in merging both agricultural and tourism as a means of boosting the economy. In 2020, Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett noted “The Ministry of Tourism will be taking strategic steps to facilitate the development of tourism in St. Thomas and the expansion of the sector along the South Coast and in other parts of the country that have untapped tourism potential.” In 2022, Mr. Bartlett noted that “The Government will be spending more than US$200 million to develop the infrastructure in St. Thomas to position the parish as a new prime tourism destination.” The marrying of agriculture and tourism has always been a good combination. Along with heritage and historical sites all across the parish, St. Thomas has the capacity to see entrepreneurs tap into various industries and provide products and services to both locals and visitors.
Business in Portland
According to the Jamaica Legacy Project, “Portland is known for its vast contribution to the country’s agricultural output and its main areas of contribution are in the cultivation of bananas, coconuts and breadfruits for both the domestic and foreign markets.” Many of Portland’s coasts have been designated as land that is viable for cultivation with almost no limitation. Coffee is also another agricultural product that is expanding. The Jamaica Legacy Project noted about one of Portland’s coffee products, “The aromatic and exquisitely flavoured Blue Mountain Coffee is world famous. The prestige of the brand ensures that it fetches top prices in the world market.”
Portland is also renowned for its captivating beauty and it is home to many attractions such as Sommerset Falls, Blue Lagoon, Frenchman’s Cove and Boston Jerk Centres. The Jamaica Information Service (JIS) noted “The tourism industry continues to be the single most significant sector contributing to Jamaica’s economic growth. New opportunities have been created to reach record levels of visitor’s satisfaction, increased stopover and repeat business.” Interestingly, the Jamaica Legacy Project recorded “Jamaica’s tourist industry was born in Port Antonio over a century ago when Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker built the island’s first hotel, the “Queen Anne Titchfield Hotel” in 1891. Tourism continues to be one of Portland’s leading industries.” Where there are booming tourism industries, there is a plethora of opportunities for entrepreneurs to capitalise on various aspects of the industry such as agriculture, gift and craft, transportation, etc.
JBDC and Entrepreneurs in the East
Business Development Officer from the Business Centre that supports both St. Thomas and Portland, Mr. Oshane Hunter noted “The state of entrepreneurship in these parishes I believe are unique to their location. Entrepreneurship in these eastern parishes is innovative and creative in a slow-paced environment given the surrounding rural areas in which these businesses are located.” He went on to say that he has also noticed that farming is a competitive space given the variety of the different products and services of the entrepreneurs.
Since the majority of business ventures that constitute St. Thomas and Portland are agriculturally based enterprises from farming to agro-processing, he noted that business development support looks like “Mind-set development for emerging entrepreneurs, understanding target markets and the market space that the business is operating, formalisation and strategy development.”
Entrepreneurship in Jamaica is not limited in any regard, it is not restricted to urban areas such as Kingston and St. Andrew, nor is it constrained in variety. The spirit of entrepreneurship in the island is alive and well, and so are the resources for entrepreneurs to receive support and succeed. Jamaica’s local environment, history, skills and resources position the island well to become a global leader in many industries and sectors and to improve the overall economic state.