Monday, June 25, 2018

ATL’S Golden Gifts to Jamaica

Hon Gordon 'Butch' Stewart is congratulated by admirers at the ATL 50th Anniversary celebrations.

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

(Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column published 18 June 2018)

We were part of the happy buzz at Hope Gardens last Tuesday, when hundreds converged on Hope Gardens to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Appliance Traders Group.  The Gordon 'Butch' Stewart organisation's ascent from a fledging supplier of air conditioning units in 1968 to the creation of the world-renowned Sandals brand reminds their fellow Jamaicans of our unlimited possibilities. 

Little did Butch Stewart dream that his early talent at salesmanship would have sky-rocketed him to the pinnacle of the tourism world. Long before branding became a buzz word, Mr. Stewart understood its power. When he was finally able to afford a Mercedes Benz, gained from his success with the sale of Fedders air conditioners in Jamaica, he emblazoned the Fedders logo on the doors of his Benz!  He told his critics that Fedders enabled him to buy his Benz, and so he was proud to promote it. ATL branding was big and bold on his ubiquitous fleet – making unfamiliar names like Hoshizaki a part of our lexicon.

In 2008, on the 40th Anniversary of ATL, this column celebrated Mr. Stewart's achievements.  We noted that in his book "All That's Good", we could see the synergy of the three basic Christian principles, faith, hope and love:   Only a person of faith would have invested in the run-down Bay Roc Hotel in 1981, rapidly rolling out a gold-standard hotel chain that would cop the most coveted international tourism awards.

Hope: The classy, meticulous Betty Jo Desnoes remembers the devastating blow dealt by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 to the three Sandals properties in Montego Bay as well as two others being built in Ocho Rios and Negril. She said on hearing the news, "Mr Stewart…began galvanizing. He dispatched every truck he had and bought up every piece of lumber and nails." 
Hailed by travel writers as "a miracle", the resorts were rebuilt and reopened three months after Gilbert in time for the beginning of the 88/89 winter tourist season.

Love: Butch Stewart's fatherly, love for his team was reflected in the many tributes featured in the 50thAnniversary video from his long serving employees. He is probably the only boss that calls man and woman alike "darling' – and it sounds perfectly natural! They spoke of his concern for their family members and his keen interest in their professional development.

The ATL/Sandals/Jamaica Observer/ATL Motors teams reflect our National Motto, "Out of Many One People", and so it was disturbing to hear the unjust accusations levelled at the hotel chain regarding their choice of entertainment, when the only artistes I have ever enjoyed in my many years visiting Sandals are local or Caribbean. 

Some criticisms descended into downright racist remarks. We have to be very careful that we do not develop a one-sided view of racism. Racism is the act of pre-judging people based on their ethnic origin, whether African, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern or European. While everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, it is never alright to be racist. We see hurtful comments flying about on social media, and a friend of European roots who was subject to this said she dared not respond as she risked being torn to bits. This is unacceptable and we in Jamaica who are miles ahead of other countries in respect of racial harmony, should protect and nurture this important aspect of our country.

Indeed the Stewart family has been exemplary: the children who were not allowed to rest on their parents' laurels but had to forge their own paths to success. The eldest, Brian Jardim has made giant steps with his Caribbean-wide business, Rainforest Seafoods, a company which contributes extensively to education and housing for the poor. Adam Stewart has earned his place as CEO of the Sandals Group and ATL Motors, introducing their award-winning eco-friendly practices to their properties and launching the philanthropic Sandals Foundation. Daughter, Jaime Stewart-McConnell is driving the "Orijins" line of natural juices as well as other innovative endeavours.

The fireworks finale was a fitting metaphor for the star-powered ATL Group, the largest private sector company in the Caribbean. Congratulations to Butch Stewart, dedicated veterans and the entire ATL Team – may you celebrate many more milestones in the years to come.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Calabash Well Lit

Excerpt from Observer column published 11 June 2018
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
When we told members of our seniors group, CCRP, that we were having a bus trip to Calabash, we had to lay on a second bus.  Such is the magic of this Caribbean Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, founded by Colin Channer in 2001 with the support of two stalwarts, Kwame Dawes and producer Justine Henzell.
With CCRP members Poet Cecile Jarrett and Dramatist Dr Jean Small

Linton Kwesi Johnson engages

Always fun to capture one of  my
favourite photographers, Collin Reid

Happy buck-up with Susan Pitter - now making waves in Leeds!
Four well-chosen readers started the Sunday, final day of Calabash, with excerpts from The Arrivants by Kamau Brathwaite – Isis Semaj-Hall, Winsome Hudson, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Alwyn Scott. The open mike session had great hits and a few misses – emcee Carolyn Cooper managed to control the long-winded ones with good humour and offered to post poems on her new blog.  I am looking forward to that as I would love to revisit some excellent pieces.
The grand finale of the Tribute to Don Drummond has us on our feet – the Calabash Ensemble, featuring Wayne Armond, Ibo Cooper and Steve Golding hit all the right notes with a treasury of Drummond and Bob Marley mixed in for good measure. Great going Team Calabash!

Law Enforcement Torch Run - Doing good on the Sabbath

Observer column published MON 11 June 2018

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

It was a lovely morning last Saturday when scores gathered at the entrance of the Police Officers Club on Hope Road for the Law Enforcement Torch Run.  This event is held worldwide by members of the security forces to raise funds for their countries’ Special Olympians. One of my favourite people in the world, Lorna Bell, organized her Special Olympians to pass the Torch to our Commissioner of Police, Major General Antony Anderson.

Hubie and I enjoyed catching up with 
Jamaica Constabulary Force Commissioner Antony Anderson and ACP Steve McGregor 
at the #LawEnforcementTorchRun
Photo by Justine Henzell.

We can be proud that Jamaica was the first country outside of the US to start the Torch Run several decades ago.  It was also great to catch up with Assistant Commissioner Steve McGregor who has been lauded by this column for his leadership in community policing, and to learn that Deputy Superintendent Cosford Cole continues to farm watermelons each year, donating his sales to the Torch Run.

If only all our police officers could follow their example. On arriving near the Hope Road/Kingsway intersection, journalist Kemesha Kelly crossed over to us to explain that she had been parked on Kingsway for over half an hour because a police officer said he could not move the barrier for her to cross over to turn on Phoenix Avenue. 

Further, there was a nurse whose car had also been stopped at the barrier, who needed to just literally cross the street to start her workday at Andrews Memorial Hospital.  Gordon Swaby of EduFocal was also stuck in the line and I learned that his request was met with an insult from the said young officer.

At this point, I figured only God could help us, so I made my case.

Me: Sir, God blessed you with the power of discretion, would you please just use it allow these good people to go their way?
Young Officer: I have my orders and I must stick to the rules.
Me: But Sir, Jesus Himself taught us that sometimes you have to bend the rules. Don’t you remember when Jesus healed the man on the Sabbath and answered his critics? And actually, today is the Sabbath.
This stirred something in him because he, who had been talking non-stop, paused thoughtfully and then finally signaled that the barriers be moved. This is the type of attitude that gives the JCF a bad name.
Meanwhile, heartiest congratulations go out to those caring police officers who, year after year, volunteer their time and other resources to raise funds for our Special Olympians.

This Jamaica train is rolling

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column published 4 June 2018
by Jean Lowrie-Chin

“The traffic!” is a common complaint here in Kingston. My theory is that, with our efficient ports and infrastructure, Kingston became a hub after the passing of hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Within a week after the storms, I noticed busy hotel lobbies and a deluge of traffic. It follows that with the damage to ports and infrastructure in neighbouring islands, there was dislocation and some relocation to Jamaica.

I believe these newcomers discovered that we were not as bad as the headlines make us out to be, and have been quietly investing.  When your press is rated in the top ten in the world, it helps to make leaders honest. The fact that we have parliamentary discussions that pull no punches is testimony to our durable democratic system.
Our first real estate development project:
Phoenix Central 

Construction is buzzing, and our own company’s modest initiative showed us that this is a promising industry. The units we had put for sale at our Phoenix Central complex went before the building was completed and the rentals are all taken up. Our humble lot was bought in 1988 and has turned out to be one of our best investments.

Life can be challenging for our young professionals, so I want them to remember that Jamaica has always been and continues to be a land of opportunity. If we had not tightened our belts in those early days and invested when the chance came up, we would have missed out.  Business gurus remind us to invest in what appreciates, for example real estate and shares in blue-chip companies. 

Jamaica is becoming even more attractive to foreign investors and we welcome them - so we should be motivated by their enthusiasm to stake our claim in this land we love. You can start small – the NHT offers great rates for that first home or apartment – but start you must. Read the business pages, watch the business interviews and remember that some of our most successful entrepreneurs had very humble beginnings and failures, but they persevered. This Jamaica train is rolling – get on board now.