"Investors still do not believe or understand the value and potential of Haiti as we do," Kim Woong-ki, chairman of Sae-A, said through an interpreter in the northern town of Caracol. "Let's open this closed door and mind set toward Haiti and highlight the true value and potential of Haiti."
The project on the 617-acre (250-hectare) site was in the works long before the January 2010 earthquake but became a priority after Clinton was named the United Nations' special envoy for Haiti in 2009 and given responsibility for spurring private investment.
On the eve of the quake's first anniversary, the Haitian government and Sae-A signed an agreement to create the industrial park, which will export clothing to the United States. Among the company's 20 existing factories are plants in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Indonesia and Vietnam.
The United States has provided $120 million for generating electricity, housing for workers and improvements to a port in the north. The Inter-American Development Bank will provide $50 million for building factory shells and infrastructure.
The Caracol industrial park is intended to be Haiti's largest private employer, with a goal of providing 20,000 jobs at the park and creating 133,000 in all through cottage industries.
The first T-shirts are scheduled be made in May or June of next year.
"This is the kind of change we need," Martelly said from a stage surrounded by bulldozers and other heavy machinery. "This is the kind of development we need."
Workers will be paid Haiti's minimum wage, which is $5 a day, and will be eligible for bonuses based on performance.
Clinton said the industrial park will eventually improve the lives of about 500,000 people as the complex brings in other tenants and small businesses emerge around the plant.
Thirty percent of Sae-A's jobs will be set aside for women.
Nella Felix hopes to be among them. She's a sometime street vendor who makes up the 60 percent of the population that makes about $2 a day.
"For me, it's a real way for the youth of the community to live, to find jobs and work," Felix, 42, said after the ceremony. "I'm waiting to see what they can do for us."
Critics of the industrial park argue that Haiti would be better off investing money in its long-neglected agriculture sector instead of the garment sector, which has stumbled along because of sporadic political upheaval.
Rudy Boulos, a business leader and former senator for the region, acknowledged the shortcomings but said the thousands of jobs will stimulate the area's economy, allowing parents to send their children to school.
"I don't think an industrial plant is the best way to create jobs," Boulos said before the ceremony started. "But it's a beginning. It's a first step to being self-sufficient."
Separately, Clinton and Martelly announced Monday that the Digicel phone company will help build a $45 million, 173-room hotel with Marriott International. The new franchise is expected to create 175 jobs.
Construction is expected to begin next year in Turgeau, one of the few middle-class neighborhoods in Port-au-Prince proper. Opening is scheduled for mid-2014.
From the Press
IDB hails new industrial park in northern Haiti
Monday, 22 October 2012 21:16 UTC
Manufacturing facility generates jobs, exports in less than one year since groundbreaking.
WASHINGTON, DC, U.S.A. (IDB) -- Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno today joined Haitian President Michel Martelly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former U.S. President Bill Clinton for the inauguration of the Caracol Industrial Park (CIP), a modern manufacturing facility in northern Haiti.
La BID : 50 millions de dollars pour le Parc industriel de Caracol
La Banque interaméricaine de développement (BID) a annoncé l’accord pour l’octroi d’un don pour Haïti s’élevant à 50 millions de dollars américains. Ces fonds sont destinés à la deuxième phase de construction du Parc Industriel de Caracol dans le nord d’Haïti.
On July 6, 2012, the New York Times published an article entitled: “Earthquake Relief Where Haiti Wasn’t Broken”. The piece has numerous factual errors and does not address many of the most salient points about the development of the Northern Corridor.
«Je suis impressionné», s'exclame le président Martelly - Haïti: Lundi 7 mai 2012. Il est 11 h 25 a.m. Le président Michel Joseph Martelly arrive à bord d'un hélico. Il foule le sol du parc industriel de Caracol en compagnie de l'ambassadeur américain Kenneth Merten et du ministre de l'Éducation nationale et de la Formation professionnelle, Réginald Paul. Tenue décontractée : chemise rayée, pantalon jeans bleu bottes. Il n'a pas effectué une visite surprise, car on l'attendait depuis son retour au pays après quelques jours d'absence pour des raisons de santé. Il n'y a pas eu de foule au parc industriel, mais des employés qui criaient vive Martelly!
Caracol : le rêve de 20 000 emplois prendra forme très lentement : Ceux qui avaient visité le Nord et le Nord-Est, à la fin de 2011 et au début de cette année 2012, ont constaté toute la propagande, à travers d'énormes panneaux publicitaires faite autour du parc industriel de Caracol, avant parc industriel de la région Nord. Ces messages annonçaient la création de 20 000 emplois au cours de cette année. La réalité en a décidé autrement. Quelle réalité ? --Le Nouvelliste 3 mai 2012
"We're no longer talking just about garment assembly. We are talking about a true textile industry short of planting cotton. That is what is being developed', said George Sassine, who is also responsible for implementing the US congress-approved duty-free legislation benefitting the garment industry". -- The Miami Herald, 29 March 2011