ALREADY spanning four special economic zones and offering more than 400,000 square feet of production space, Barnett Tech Park has significantly altered Montego Bay’s landscape. But listening to executive chairman of Barnett Ltd, Mark Kerr-Jarrett, this is just the beginning.

“We’re 50 per cent built out. We have a tremendous amount of scope and capacity to increase that development and further create more employment,” the renowned land developer told a room full of real estate stakeholders recently when he was invited to explain why the facility is a resounding success.

His formula consists of having a clear vision, a plan for how it will be accomplished, a competent team and, once construction ends, efficiently managing the facility.

“It’s a success because it’s growing. It’s a success because we’re meeting a demand for the people. We have actually sold all of the large buildings to pension funds so that they can get the fixed US-dollar income, which has a good mark-up every year. It’s a success because it works. For us, we made a 300 per cent return on equity,” Kerr-Jarrett said as he wrapped up his presentation to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

In his succinct speech at International Real Estate Conference 2024 he had taken his audience on a journey that laid out how — since his return to Jamaica in 1989 after studying abroad — both he and the land have been transformed. It all started in 1990 when the Government compulsorily acquired a section of the Kerr-Jarrett family’s 2,000-acre farm lands to build the National Water Commission sewage ponds at Bogue.

“We resisted it because we thought it wasn’t the best thing to do with the lands; but it went ahead. At that point I remember sitting down with my father and saying, ‘This can never happen again,’ ” Kerr Jarrett said.

“We went about the visioning and the creation of the Montego Bay South Master Plan, which was for 1,500 acres. The vision there is to facilitate, enhance, and promote the orderly expansion of Montego Bay in order to advance the development of the city [and] to create wealth and improve living standards for all Jamaicans. We started by putting in the infrastructure, and then we hung the meat on the plan from there,” he added.

The master plan was developed in 1994 but wasn’t accepted until six years later, a lesson in patience for the company. With several major projects by then under its belt, Barnett Ltd began work on the tech park in November 2009.

“The real hard part with the tech park was finding that first client. We had to do a loss leader on that but it was worth it,” said Kerr-Jarrett.

Advanced Call Center Technologies Jamaica (ACCT) was the first to come on board, followed by Conduent.

“They’re basically our primary tenants for the large areas, the 50,000- and 175,000-square-foot spaces. After that we managed to sign leases before we even started construction. We would go from greenfield to a handover building in-between 11 and 13 months, which speaks to the teamwork that we had,” Kerr-Jarrett told his audience.

“Pre-COVID we had 10,000 plus people working in the park on a 24-hour basis. The vision for the tech park was: Let’s create an environment where the investors can come and, instead of having three or four different buildings spotted out all over the place, you have all of the buildings in one area — your facilities manager, your HR manager, your maintenance, all of those things — and your costs go down. You need one server because we fibre in the whole thing; everybody can plug in onto their server, wherever it is in the tech park,” he added.

Barnett Tech is like a mini municipality, a concerted effort to ensure workers on break have easy access to most of the amenities needed for everyday life.

Food trucks are allowed to park in the transportation centre, and BirdShack Fried Chicken offers both drive-through and dine-in options. Also within the facility is a gynaecologist office, pharmacy, Rocketship courier services, about two hardware and tools suppliers, a paint store, and more.

“When you have 10,000 people working somewhere you need to make sure that you can give them, within a reasonably short distance, everything that they need to sustain themselves and have a productive work day,” said Kerr-Jarrett.

Companies were not left out when the bells and whistles were being added. Each structure has a building management system, accessible by an app which helps monitor and manage energy use.

“You can take your phone out, look at the building performance, see which rooms are empty, and you can shut down the ACs and lights and everything remotely,” said Kerr-Jarrett.

Also on the property management side, he and his team keep on top of fixing the little things before they become major problems — all part of the plan to ensure the tech park is efficient for years to come.

“We do all of our own internal property management. We have our own division there, because it’s not just how you build the building, it’s how you maintain it. It also reduces your long-term costs if you are rigid in your property management. You see something starting to go wrong, you deal with it right away,” explained the land baron-turned-developer.

Over the years Barnett Ltd has been behind a number of projects which are now some of the most recognisable landmarks in Montego Bay. In addition to Barnett Tech Park these include Fairview Shopping Centre; the expansion of Bogue Industrial Estates, called Fairfield Commercial Park; Westgate Hills phases one, two and three; and Bogue Village Montego West. The building out of the tech park continues, and there is also work being done on Barnett Logistics and Distribution Hub at North Bank.

“It’s been a really great journey. And it’s only just started,” said Kerr-Jarrett.

Source: Jamaica Observer