Thursday, October 29, 2015

Be a hero – eyes on the prize

Excerpt from Observer column for MON 19 October 2015
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

GraceKennedy CEO Don Wehby (Rudolph Brown photo from
Who doesn’t enjoy this political buzz?  However, while some are getting hot under the collar about polls, others are attending to the business at hand: seeking opportunities, growing companies, and honing their skills to ensure financial security. Let us take good note of recent developments involving local and foreign investors to inspire a vision for our own lives.

GraceKennedy have announced that they will break ground for a US$25 million complex on the Kingston waterfront that will house their executive offices and commercial space. Minister Phillip Paulwell declared open a $200 million solar plant at Wisynco Group, which has also invested nearly US$10 million to upgrade and expand their facilities. Meanwhile, Matalon Homes and Tankweld have entered into a joint venture, investing $540 million in technology to produce a special type of metal roofing. 
Minister Phillip Paulwell, Wisynco CEO Andrew Mahfood, Benjamin Daley, managing director of Padero Solar Jamaica and British High Commissioner David Fitton inspect the solar panel installation at Wisynco

Adam Stewart, Caribbean Hotelier of the Year
The Sandals brand continues to shine, with Adam Stewart being named Caribbean Hotelier of the Year, even as he ensures that the Sandals chain buys Jamaican – to the tune of $3 billion per year.  At the recent JMA Awards banquet, he noted, “We pour 7.3 million cups of Blue Mountain coffee in our hotels annually, that's roughly 20,000 cups a day."  Observer reporter Karena Bennett reported that they also use 22 million bottles of Wata, some 230,000 bottles of Appleton Estate Rum, and 33 million bottles of Red Stripe annually.

Butch Henrickson
That quiet giant Butch Hendrickson, continues to expand his National Baking exports to North America and the United Kingdom, while assisting other smaller manufacturers with their marketing and distribution.  Mohan Jagnarine of Spur Tree says that without Hendrickson’s support, his spices and sauces would not be enjoying their success in top US supermarket chains.

On the National Day of Spain last Wednesday, the Jamaica Observer carried the front page headline, “Big! Really big!”  They were not exaggerating – the story outlined an announcement made the previous day by a Spanish Company, Karisma Hotels and Resorts, that they were embarking on a US$900 million project in Llandovery, St Ann. 

Jamaicans may look at some of the names mentioned and think, “Oh yes, those are ‘money people’.”  Apart from the fact that these are second and third generation scions of folks who started out very humbly, there are some first generation champions who echo the ambition of our first National Hero, Marcus Mosiah Garvey.

Glen Christian
A Jamaican of African ancestry, Glen Christian recalls delivering letters as a humble postman on his bicycle to Colgate-Palmolive at 216 Marcus Garvey Drive.  Toiling, studying, graduating from Mico College and moving up the ranks in the pharmaceutical distribution business, he founded Cari-Med and Kirk Industries, a group of companies which owns considerable real estate including that very Colgate-Palmolive building, describing the former owners as their current partner! 
Eleanor Jones
Colleagues in academia can be inspired by the founder of Environmental Solutions Limited (ESL), geologist Eleanor Jones.  Eleanor was a highly respected lecturer at UWI, and presented at many conferences exploring environmental issues.  Twenty-six years ago, she decided that there were too many problems being discussed, and not enough solutions.  She made the bold move of resigning from the UWI to launch ESL, a company that has been invaluable to the planning of huge projects throughout the Caribbean.  Her own Cold Springs location in Newcastle is a celebration of the area’s pristine beauty.
I believe that what is standing between many Jamaicans and their financial success is a misguided belief that this can be achieved only by persons of a certain colour.  Glen Christian and Eleanor Jones are proving that this is not so.  Marcus Garvey proved this decades ago in a country where people of colour were still fighting for basic civil rights. 
As we contemplate our recent celebration of National Heroes Day, let us become heroes for our own ambitions, for our families and for our country.  Unfortunately, some politicians would prefer their followers to stay ignorant and dependent, but other leaders in business, education, church and community are willing to mentor hard-working, ambitious and honest Jamaicans.  
Do not be intimidated by the long days of work and the long nights of study – this is how you make yourself strong and independent, not hat-in-hand begging for the next break.  Go the extra mile, volunteer and let your light shine so brightly that it shows you paths you never dreamed existed.

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