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St. Thomas, Jamaica focused in new Trade And Investment Initiative

ST. Thomas, Jamaica – The St. Thomas Heritage and Tourism Committee and the philanthropic organization Upliftment Jamaica are set to turn the spotlight on the parish of St. Thomas with a week-long roster of activities aimed at celebrating the parish’s culture and history, as well as providing a forum to acquaint potential investors with a range of investment opportunities, particularly within the agricultural and tourism sectors.

The initiative which is dubbed Cum Bak Ya, is the brainchild of entertainment communications guru, Mr. Gary Foster, who is Executive Vice President of Rush Communications and also head of Upliftment Jamaica. The extensive program of business development, educational and cultural events, seeks to target parishioners residing overseas, as well as local residents, with the view to forging new partnerships that will facilitate increased investment and aid job creation.

The organizers have also billed the series of events as an opportunity to focus international attention on St. Thomas and to allow parishioners to become greater stakeholders in the parish’s economic future.

According to Gary Foster, Cum Back Ya “will be the signature event for St. Thomas and will feature a comprehensive offering of entertainment, exploration, relaxation, information and investment activities.”

Mr. Foster further explained that it was in the interest of Jamaicans who hailed from St. Thomas to become passionate advocates for the revitalization and economic advancement of the parish. “Our continued engagement with the St. Thomas community stems largely from the deeply held conviction that notwithstanding its current challenges, St. Thomas remains a parish with significant potential which should definitely be encouraged. Our mission is to engender a partnership that will give rise to a new spirit of entrepreneurship and community empowerment that will constitute a platform for broad-based, sustainable development,” he said.

The main investment thrust of Cum Back Ya will be the staging of the Paul Bogle International Trade Fair, which will highlight key development areas, including agriculture and agro-processing, advertising, information and communications technology (ICT), manufacturing and also tourism, particularly within the area of health and wellness.

The trade fair will also provide attendees with information on critical needs areas requiring support, including education and training as well as environmental preservation.

Mr. Foster also noted that any new thrust aimed at boosting economic development in St. Thomas would necessitate strong public sector support, particularly with respect to combating the effects of flooding which, over the years, has significantly affected the parish’s infrastructure. “It is our view that effective public policy also has a central role to play in this process even as organizations, such as ours, seek to assist the local population in improving and expanding their own productive base.

One of the recurrent challenges in St. Thomas remains our vulnerability to natural disasters, primarily occasioned by hurricanes and weather systems transiting the Caribbean, which tend to adversely affect the parish – and indeed eastern Jamaica – typically more frequently than any other region,” he observed.

Given this reality, Mr. Foster has also called for the establishment of a more robust presence by the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), in order to provide training and the development of a “first responder corps” in the parish. “There has traditionally been only a negligible presence in St. Thomas, despite the parish’s very high exposure (to natural disasters). This is an area of critical need and one which is deserving of priority attention,” he said.

In addition to hosting the international trade fair, Mr. Foster and Upliftment Jamaica will also host several private business meetings, seminars and mini workshops targeting specific productive sectors, a special symposium on education, as well as a health and wellness festival.

The health and wellness component will include medical, dental and optical care, which will be available at two venues in St. Thomas and will be provided free of cost. Patrons will also be able to sample various products and services in the areas of nutraceuticals and alternative medicines and will be exposed to new technological advances in telemedicine.

Cum Back Ya 2007 will also feature the Paul Bogle Heritage Tours, allowing participants to tour heritage sites, trails and farms in St. Thomas, which will offer visual aids and related memorabilia. The extensive roster of events will be rounded out with the hosting of the 2007 Upliftment International Gala Awards Dinner on Saturday, December 8 and a Grand Gospel Concert on Sunday, December 9.

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