A Charming and Resilient Gem on Jamaica’s South Coast
Business View Caribbean talks with representatives from Clarendon, for our focus on economic growth and resilience.
As the third-largest parish in Jamaica, Clarendon has a story to tell, and it is woven with historical significance, natural wonders, and a commitment to sustainable development.
“We are a very diverse parish in almost every way,” begins Rowhan Blake, CEO of the Clarendon Municipal Corporation. He describes a landscape rich with mountainous areas, contrasted by rolling plains and limestone. However, this topography comes with a set of challenges, as the northern region is susceptible to landslides and the southern coastal area faces the constant threat of flooding. Despite these natural hazards, Clarendon remains resilient.
“Our culture is also very diverse and that is based on our historical background,” Blake adds. “As it is today, if you want to divide our parish based on culture, it would be within three regions, the southern belt, which is based mainly on fishing and you’ll find predominantly persons of Indian descent in that area. Then another section is predominantly farming, and those persons are primarily of African descent. And within the middle section of the parish, we have May Pen, the capital, and that’s really the urban center, so you’ll find more of an urban type of lifestyle and land use within that area.”
Economic Transformation and Development
The economic landscape of Clarendon has shifted away from a reliance on sugarcane, but Mayor Winston Maragh reports that there is ongoing development in the parish. This includes the construction of the Millennium Mall located in May Pen, which he reports is creating a lot of new activity in the area. Another transformative development was the extension of the East West Highway 2000 from Kingston. This extension, stretching from May Pen into the neighboring parish of Manchester, has significantly reduced travel time, allowing for swift access to the town of Mandeville. “That is creating quite an impact and will open us up to more activities economically and so on,” says the mayor. “When you drive on these highways, you see a lot of unused lands that were once in sugarcane, which was booming at one time for many years. But that is now done, and so we do have a lot of unused lands around which people are slowly taking up into food production, and other activities.” One major employer in Clarendon is Jamalco, an aluminum refinery plant which is situated south of May Pen. This plant employs not only those in the parish, but across the island.
Juici Patties- Exemplifying Corporate Social Responsibility
Juici Patties is a home grown success story, and an integral part of Clarendon’s landscape. As the largest local company in the parish, Juici Patties, has grown significantly since its inception in 1980, evolving from a single location into a thriving chain of fast-food establishments across Jamaica and expanding into international markets like Canada and the United States. Embracing corporate social responsibility, the company demonstrates a holistic approach to community engagement. Their volunteer program for staff, spanning over two decades, focuses on feeding the elderly, and continued initiatives aimed at empowering at-risk youth, violence prevention, and fostering multi-generational programs, reflect a strong commitment to enhancing community well-being.
As Clarendon welcomes a changing economy, it is taking advantage of its central location on the island, and close proximity to Kingston. “It’s really exciting times for the people of Clarendon, and the possibilities and the potential of the parish is great,” Blake conveys. “Based on the new development of the highway, we find persons moving into our parish to live. We have numerous new housing developments, and we have developers also submitting plans for other developments within the parish. We expect the population of the parish to grow.”
Noteworthy among these developments is the discussion with the National Housing Trust for a new town, promising substantial economic growth. The Vernamfield development, repurposed from a U.S. army base, is undergoing talks to transform into an “aerotropolis,” which will attract increased housing and economic development opportunities to the community.
Significant capital investments are also being directed towards enhancing healthcare facilities. The Minister of Health has spearheaded rehabilitation and upgrades to hospitals and health centers. “Healthcare is being expanded, so that we can take care of the needs of the people,” remarks Mayor Maragh, elaborating that plans are underway for expansion of the May Pen Hospital and the construction of state-of-the-art health centers throughout the community. Additionally, the Chapelton Hospital is set to undergo further expansion, following a US 2 million rehabilitation work recently.
Mayor Maragh notes that other contributions to the local economy include annual events like the agricultural show at Denbigh, which showcases the agricultural prowess of the region. “That’s a three day event, and we have people coming from all over the island with their agricultural produce to show off,” he describes. “We try to work with the Jamaica Agricultural Society, who owns the property, to see how we can further expand that by doing some other things for the days that the property is there idle.”
Fast car racing at venues like Vernamfield and Woodleigh racetracks add a thrilling dimension to the parish’s recreational offerings, and are a valuable economic contributor, along with the continued presence of operational distilleries like Monymusk and New Yarmouth.
Ongoing Tourism Potential
While Clarendon embraces economic diversification, it also recognizes the untapped potential of tourism. Blake acknowledges, “As a parish, based on the change in our economy, we are looking at other areas of development. We have completed a Local Sustainable Development Plan, and one of the areas that we’re looking to maximise on is tourism. We’re excited about that.” The goal is to differentiate the parish from the rest of the island, putting the focus on nature and community based tourism. The Milk River Bath, a world-renowned spa, anchors the parish’s offerings. “The corporation along with our partners, have also started to develop other areas within the parish for tourism, one such is Salt River Spa, which is now very popular. We have numerous visitors coming to that area daily. The corporation at this time, is working with the community of Salt River to further develop that area,” Blake recounts. Other attractions include the Portland Bight Protected Area, which is the largest protected wetlands in Jamaica. It is also home to several protected species. The south coast is also made up of picturesque beaches like Farquhar, Welcome and Jackson Bay. Plans for a Heritage Trail with storyboards identifying the numerous heritage sites and historic buildings in that part of the parish are also in the works.
Another potential opportunity would be rafting along the Salt River, taking advantage of an underutilized resource. Mayor Maragh shares, “The Salt River has been there idle. Monymusk Sugar Factory used to get irrigation water from it for the cane field, but since the cane field is down, there’s no activity and no water being pulled from it again. So, what we’re planning to do is clean that out and have boat rides. We can teach people about the area, the environment and all of that. We have a Caribbean Coastal Area Management foundation that manages that area environmentally. If you take a boat ride, they can teach you about the mangroves, the coastline, and a lot of things.”
Community Outreach and Partnerships
Clarendon remains committed to community engagement, as Blake outlines, “We have a strategy where we have regular town hall meetings, to get closer to the people so they understand exactly what we do. We also do a lot of public education in schools, especially our Disaster Preparedness Coordinator, who goes into schools weekly, to speak to students. We use the social media platforms, and town hall meetings, but we also use traditional media.”
Shanique Samuels, Public Relations Officer at the Clarendon Municipal Corporation talks about another impactful project in the parish, aimed at helping women who have been victims of domestic violence. “The Spotlight Initiative in Jamaica, is a united effort to eliminate violence against women & girls. It is implemented by UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and UN Women,” she elaborates. “Through Spotlight’s financial support, we executed a woman and girls empowerment project through the Municipal Corporation. Women and girls were given training in business initiatives, they were encouraged and empowered to go out and be on their own, where they will no longer need to rely on their perpetrators.”
Clarendon also works closely with agencies such as the Chamber of Commerce, and the Ministers Fraternal who represent the leaders of the churches within the parish. Other valued partnerships and collaborations for the parish include those with the Social Development Commission, Clarendon Parish Development Benevolent Committee, the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCO) and the Tourism Enhancement Fund, who help with the implementation of tourism initiatives and projects. “We really do work with and value our external partners. We have very good partnerships with them,” Samuels asserts.
As Clarendon looks to the future, it stands at the cusp of transformation and growth. The commitment to sustainable development, economic diversification, and the preservation of its cultural and natural heritage sets Clarendon on a path to becoming not just a historical parish but a thriving destination that captures the essence of Jamaica.
Click The Cover To View Or Download The Brochure
AT A GLANCE
What: The third largest parish in Jamaica, embracing an economic shift.
Where: Southern Jamaica
Juici Patties – juicipatties.com
At Juici Patties , our goal is to give our customers a flavorful, spicy, delicious taste of Jamaican fast food. Our modern take on food preparation, store design, and service options gives us the tools to feed the people and spread the word about our delicious food. We love what we do, and we bring that love to all our stores.
As the business landscape evolves and changes with the times, Juici Patties is bringing its new and exciting take on modern fast food to the U.S.
We never forget how we transformed ourselves from goods on a shelf in a small grocery store to a domestic Jamaican powerhouse, and we aim to use that same spirit to guide our development as a U.S. fast-casual force.
Restaurants of Jamaica