Come to Jamaica, "Mon": Tapping into Hot Trade Market
Sabir, Nadirah Z., Black Enterprise
When you think of Jamaica, you probably picture coconut trees, banana leaves and white sands. But this jewel of an island also offers rich opportunities for U.S. companies interested in import and export.
Jamaica is recovering nicely from internal and environmental setbacks. The island nation is now hungry for U.S. trade dollars; you name it, Jamaica wants it--from plucked chickens to medical supplies to jeeps. With the backing of U.S. incentives, many African-American small businesses can answer the call.
Shelley Roberts, 22, recently graduated from New Hampshire College with a marketing degree, just in time to enter her family's new business. Her father, Selwyn Roberts, owns a New Windsor, N.Y., start-up, Global Marketing Associates Inc. The company sells fuel, oil filters and ceramic tile. Now, Global is looking to sell its auto parts to jamaican distributors.
In September of last year, the two Roberts participated in a four-day trade mission to the island and found quite a few distributors. Roberts started the company last year with $10,000 in savings, and anticipates spending at least another $5,000 to support the export venture. The company projects a profit of close to $200,000 by the end of this year. That makes for a hefty slice of the $1.2 billion Jamaican-U.S. import/export pie.
With over 1 million tourists every year, Jamaica's tourism and travel industry is another hot area for business development. Yet another area worth noting is the island's shopping malls, which are beginning to crop up everywhere.
Jamaica is a viable market, even with its inflation and high unemployment rate, says Gavin Chen, a senior manager for finance and capital development programs at the Minority Business Development Agency. If you're thinking of doing business in jamaica, "ask yourself if you can provide goods and services at competitive prices," he says.
Ten years ago, the Jamaican-to-U.S. rate of exchange was 4 to 1. Today, it's 33 to 1. Some economists would say that increase indicates a skyrocketing inflation. But for many experienced importers, this increase tells them there's a greater demand for U.S. dollars to purchase raw materials. According to Institutional Investor's 1994 credit rating of the world's countries, better days are ahead for Jamaica. …