|The Miami Herald|
“I didn’t really set out to bring people hope,’’ Kim said, as he rode away from the village on Haiti’s northern coast halfway between the cities of Cap-Haitien and Ouanaminthe. “Coming here, seeing the site and walking among the people, I realized that what I’m going to do here in creating the factory and the jobs, is give people hope.’’
A major supplier to U.S. retailers Target, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and GAP, Sae-A is expanding its garment-making operations to Haiti as the anchor tenant in a new 617-acre industrial park being created in the country’s underdeveloped northern region. For the first time, Haiti’s 2 million-a-week T-shirt-stitching industry will also include the country’s only knit and dyeing mill with Sae-A pumping 6,000 tons of ground water a day for its export operations.
“For the first time ever, apparel sewn in Haiti will be using fabric made in Haiti,’’ said Kim, whose company already has operations in Guatemala and Nicaragua.
With the company gearing up to recruit Haitian managers as early as next month for a planned March 2012 opening, the deal is already having a multiplier effect. Local hotel and restaurant owners are optimistic, as are potential workers like 23-year-old Luckner Peter, about the possibility of 20,000 new jobs in the area. Luckner was among dozens of young men hired by the government at 50 cents a hole to help install a fence around the property.
“This is going to change our community,’’ said Louicot Alexandre, president of the chamber of commerce for Northeast Haiti, a region of about 300,000 residents. “This shows that Haiti is prepared to do business with the world, and it’s OK to do business with Haiti.’’
Valued at about $300 million, the job-creation package is one of Haiti’s biggest foreign investments. U.S. officials call it an “unprecedented collaboration’’ between the Haitian and U.S. governments, and the Inter-American Development Bank. So much is at stake that some Haiti observers mused that it was perhaps one of the reasons for the United States’ heavy involvement in the Nov. 28 presidential election debacle. Twice before, Kim had tried to invest in Haiti. Each time, his decision was thwarted. There was political turmoil in 1994 after he signed a memorandum of understanding and then the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake shortly after another trip.
“We have in our business proposal a huge chapter called hurdles and obstacles,’’ said Lon Garwood, advisor to Kim. “Our initial business proposal didn’t look like a business proposal. It looked like why we can’t do business in Haiti.’’
But that was before the U.S. government stepped in, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal plea on behalf of Haiti during a Korea visit.
With the Haitian government donating the land and compensating farmers, the U.S. plans to build 5,000 houses, a 25-megawatt electricity grid for the park and surrounding area, and a waste and water treatment plant as part of its $124 million contribution. The Inter-American Development Bank is contributing over $100 million for construction of buildings and roads.
“These kinds of investment deals are incredibly hard,’’ said Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s chief of staff, who has been credited with leading the effort for more than a year to bring together all sides including Haiti’s private sector. “They take prolonged coordination and consultation, and accommodation and negotiation. But ultimately what they really take is an audacious amount of faith.’’
It is this faith, the U.S. and others are banking on as they seek to revive Haiti’s post-earthquake shattered economy by helping the nation’s garment industry take better advantage of U.S.-Congress approved duty-free trade legislation. Once boasting 100,000 jobs, the industry has just 28,000. About 9,000 of those were created because of the removal of tariffs.
Last May, a sympathetic Congress extended the trade benefits to 2020.
Now Haiti’s private sector is hoping to attract 60,000 new jobs with the industrial park in the north. They are also eyeing another park in the south, just outside of the quake-ravaged capital of Port-au-Prince.
“We are 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 Georges Sassine, who is also responsible for implementing the U.S. Congress-approved duty-free legislation benefiting the garment industry.
Sae-A’s revenues are more than doubled Haiti’s garment industry’s $512 million exports for 2009. In addition to Haitian managers, the company has committed to pay line workers at least four times Haiti’s average $640 GDP per capita. The facility itself will boast a cooling system, recreational facilities and a football field. With the construction bid package currently being prepared to go out next month, the first phase has already been laid out. Sae-A’s operations will occupy 126 of 185 acres, said Mark D’Sa, a Miami-based executive with GAP who has been on loan with the State Department to help Haiti better take advantage of trade legislation.
D’Sa said other potential clients include a furniture maker and two other apparel companies. Not far from the site, and separate from the industrial park, the Dominican government is planning to build a university.
Still, the deal has detractors with some protesting using farmland for what some are calling “sweatshops.’’ Government officials say the land belongs to the state and compensation packages are being worked out for farmers who have been illegally living off it.
“We have sought investments outside of Port-au-Prince for years,’’ said Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. “In Haiti, the real tough infrastructure investments in energy, ports, and industrial zones have largely been avoided. It’s these investments that will generate the productive base of which Haiti can grow and prosper economically.’’
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
Some 20,000 jobs to be created at new industrial park in Haiti
Tuesday, 29 March 2011 00:00