Officials Celebrate Plans for Factory Zone in Northern Haiti

Haiti has high hopes for jobs at new industrial park

By Joseph Guyler Delva, Reuters, Nov 28, 2011
CARACOL, Haiti, Nov 28 (Reuters) - Haiti and its international partners broke ground on Monday on a $257 million industrial park that represents the largest foreign investment since the Caribbean nation was hit by a catastrophic earthquake nearly two years ago.

The 608-acre (246-hectare) Caracol Industrial Park on Haiti's northwest coast will be anchored by a South Korean textile firm, Sae-A Trading Co Ltd, which has committed to hire 20,000 people. That would make it the largest private employer in the Western Hemisphere's poorest nation.

Haitian President Michel Martelly said the park could eventually provide jobs for 65,000 workers, which would increase Haiti's garment industry workforce by more than 200 percent. Martelly thanked international donors for helping provide food and water to homeless Haitians living in tents in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake that wrecked parts of the capital and killed as many as 300,000 people.

"We thank them for that, but that should change. Today, here is the model of investment Haitians need from the friends of Haiti," Martelly said. "This model of investment will allow Haitians to feel proud. They go to work, they get their salary and they will buy their own food and water."

Sae-A is investing $78 million in the initial phase of the project, while the U.S. government is contributing $124 million and the Inter-American Development Bank $55 million. Haiti's government contributed the land for the industrial park in Caracol, about 15 miles (25 km) from the port city of Cap Haitien.

The first operations are set to begin in March. The project will include development of roads, an electricity-generating facility and housing.

Sae-A is a major supplier to U.S. retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc, Target Corp, and Gap Inc. Promoters of the project say it could revive Haiti's garment industry and are hoping to attract other clothing manufacturers that might benefit from increased American trade preferences for Haitian-made apparel. The Haitian government is courting additional tenants in the textile industry as well as electronics and furniture manufacturers.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, a U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, attended the groundbreaking ceremony with other potential investors. "The Haitian government has offered real incentives to get people to come here and I thank all the business leaders who are with us today," Clinton said. "This industrial park is the result of people working together. Haiti is open for business because people are working together."

Supporters have high hopes for the project. Clinton said that for every job created in the park, one new job would be created in the local economy. The IDB said the project would create more than $500 million in wages and benefits over a decade, with each worker earning more than three times Haiti's per capita GDP of $2,400. It said the initiative would increase the number of jobs in the formal private sector by at least 20 percent.

Hundreds of investors in Haiti for two-day forum

By Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, Nov. 28, 2011
Haiti backers heralded some good news Monday for the earthquake ravaged Haiti: 44 miles of newly asphalted road, a new 605-acre industrial park in the north that will attract 65,000 jobs and a marquee hotel brand. “This is a very special day. It is truly a day of change,” Luis Alberto Moreno, the head of the Inter-American Development Bank said Monday.

The bank, which invests hundreds of millions of dollars in Haiti, is sponsoring a two-day investment forum in Port-au-Prince beginning Tuesday. So far, 1,000 people have registered, 500 of them business people from 29 countries.

As attendees began pouring into the country and taking over every available hotel room, the IDB, President Michel Martelly, Prime Minister Garry Conille and former U.S. President Bill Clinton spent the day spreading the news in back-to-back events across the country.

Early Monday, Moreno and Martelly inaugurated a newly rehabilitated Route National 1, the country’s main road that connects the capital in the south to Cap-Haitien in the north. The symbolic ribbon-cutting culminated three years of construction by the Dominican road building firm Estrella.

Later they joined Clinton and Conille in laying the first stone of the new industrial park, an investment worth more than $300 million. The park’s first tenants include one of Korea’s biggest clothing manufactures, Sae-A, which will eventually employ 20,000 people. About 5,000 new houses will surround the area, courtesy of the IDB and U.S. Agency for International Development.

“This is the kind of change we want,” Martelly said. “This is what they call durable development.”

But that development, Clinton reminded Haitian authorities and donors, has come about because Haitians and donors worked together. “If people keep working together, we can give you the future you deserve,” he said.

And that future will soon include the Marriott name. The hotel announced late in the afternoon that it will open its first full-fledged Marriott hotel in Haiti in two years. The $45 million 173-room hotel is a partnership with telecom giant, Digicel.

“Today is Bob the Builder day in Haiti,” Denis O’Brien, the owner of Digicel said, referring to the projects’ previously announced and his coming hotel. “By doing this hotel, we hope that this is going to be a message to other foreign direct investors, ‘Come on in.’ ”

Arnie Sorenson, president and chief operating officer for Marriott International, said the earthquake “opened our eyes” to Haiti. “We are not here saying we are doing this because of good social work. That is obviously an extra special feature because of where Haiti is at,’’ Sorenson said. “It needs to continue to develop, stabilize after the earthquake, continue to bring in foreign direct investment and have commerce, and tell people it’s a safe place to invest. Our being involved helps all of those things.”