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Remarks by the Prime Minister at the opening of the Harris Paint's New Production Facility - July 19, 2001

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Remarks by the Honourable Prime Minister

Dr. Kenny D. Anthony

on the occasion of the opening of the

Harris Paints New Production Facility

Bois d’Orange, Gros Islet

July 19, 2001



Ladies and Gentlemen, this occasion speaks volumes for itself. When a regional company with a track record like Harris Paints, expands into a new facility of its own, one can be assured of several positive things: prudent corporate analysis and planning has occurred; a sound business judgement about the future of product and industry has been rendered, and corporate confidence in the St. Lucian economy has been expressed. Today, therefore, we are looking into the future and we are doing so with a high degree of optimism.


Only a few weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of addressing the inaugural session of the St. Lucia Manufacturers Association (SMA). At that time, I was pleased to note several comprehensive strategies formulated for the growth and development of local manufacturing. For the first time, an expansive blue print was emanating from the sector itself. This was a welcomed change.

It was also an opportunity applaud the Association’s proactive stance, and to deepen the partnership that continues to be forged between the manufacturing sector and Government. I am pleased to indicate therefore, that the Manufacturers Association will, in time, be considered for Special Development Agency Status which will confer specific tax and duty status now enjoyed by other private sector institutions, such as the Chamber of Commerce, the St. Lucia Hotel and Tourism Association, the Employer’s Federation, SLISBA and NRDF. This special privilege will be accorded once the Association proves itself to be a truly representative, sustainable, democratic, and a productive partner in the process of national development.

Such a partnership continues to be nurtured at several levels. The principle custodian of that relationship is the Ministry of Commerce headed by the Honourable Minister whose firm commitment to the sector is tried and tested. Within that Ministry is the Small Enterprise Development Unit, SEDU, with its own special brief to assist emerging entrepreneurs. Other support mechanisms such as the Private Sector Development Strategy are also playing a supporting role.


Even more recently, we marked the inauguration of the Bank of St. Lucia, and within that framework, the launching of six subsidiaries which will vastly improve the facilitating environment for investment and further growth in the sector. Both of those landmark events - the launching of the SMA and of the Bank of St. Lucia - constitute a display of courage and commitment; two critical factors in the road to commercial success.


It is no coincidence that those two factors find tangible expression here today, and that a similar sense of vision and purpose has characterised the growth and development of this model company. Indeed, in these times when we so badly need success models, particularly in manufacturing, we are privileged to witness the sustained and deliberate development of Harris Paints over its relatively short life in St. Lucia. Moreover, in reviewing the history and evolution of this regional company, I find a remarkable process of corporate reincarnation. This process, this approach to business, has obviously kept the company competitive and on the cutting edge of its industry.

The fine example of Harris Paints teaches us that innovation and constant upgrading remain crucial to companies wishing to thrive and prosper in this changing market environment. As we are learning more precisely everyday, economic survival is no longer a function of stoic endurance through business peaks and troughs. Survival is also a function of a company’s ability to assimilate, adapt, and innovate.


Assimilation implies a connectedness with both domestic and international trends; trends which influence economic, demographic, and social conditions. It suggests formal and informal information systems constantly at work, updating management on the vagaries of the market, physical and human conditions within the plant, and market influences within the economy and beyond. Adaptability suggests an openness to such information, and the ability to embrace and manage change processes which allow the company to stay alert, responsive and competitive. Innovation suggests the profitable use of those resources - human, physical and financial - which allow the firm to generate new concepts and ideas, new products, services and markets. These are valuable lessons to be derived from the Harris Paints experience.


The corporate history of Harris Paints in St. Lucia reflects all these attributes over a span of some 13 years commencing with commercial incorporation in 1988. This was soon followed by the establishment of a manufacturing facility in 1994; a move which catapulted the company from importation and retail into direct production and marketing of its own output. Now, just seven years later, we see this $3 million investment in its own premises. This achievement has been accompanied by a tenfold increase in staffing and augurs well for the continued presence of the company in St. Lucia.


Moreover, the evolution of this company also reflects its successful transition from a single market entity to a more diversified company. This transition offers lessons for other manufacturers hoping to grow and expand. From its modest start as a subsidiary of an extra regional entity, Harris Paints has become a regional giant with major stakes in Barbados, Dominica, Guyana and, of course, St. Lucia. This evolution has included in its wake, investment and employment opportunities for local shareholders, providing a fine example of diversified ownership.

Product diversification has also been a hallmark of the company’s ascendancy. From humble beginnings as a producer of mainly emulsion, water-based products, the company now produces a full range of decorative finishes including oil-based paints, roofing compounds, floor and wall finishes, auto and marine products, bonding agents and more. This is tangible proof that manufacturing, despite the odds, is not without its just rewards if pursued in a deliberate and dedicated manner. There are comparative advantages to be exploited but it takes strategic thinking, a supportive environment and serious determination.


It is also noteworthy that Harris Paints was one of the first companies identified by the Office of Private Sector Relations for assistance, based on the company’s quality assurance programmes. In the search for tangible ways to support manufacturing entities with product and market development and diversification, Harris Paints served as a model for the development of an ISO certification programme sponsored by OPSR. As a result of this company’s expressed needs, there is now a working model for ISO certification of local manufacturers. This programme also involves the Bureau of Standards, seeking as it does to build capacity within the manufacturing sector through quality assurance programmes, and also to build local capacity for certification, training, testing and the enforcement of product standards. Let me remind our manufacturers that the rigour which will be applied to test the quality of regional and other external products, will be the same rigour that will be applied to locally produced goods.


We also applaud Harris Paints as an environmentally responsible corporate citizen. We have noted with great enthusiasm their built-in systems for waste management, recycling and pollution mitigation. In the zero-sum game of our small island ecology where we only denigrate the environment to our own detriment, we are encouraged by this company’s self-regulatory approach. We anticipate that their example will inspire others and alert them to the long-term financial benefits of such measures. Such an approach begins to answer the issues of sustainable development of competing economic activities such as manufacturing, tourism and agriculture.


Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me in closing to remind us of the tremendous potential of the local and regional manufacturing sector. There is much we can produce effectively and efficiently and do so to world standards. Much of our creative talent lies idle. We have not necessarily prepared our selves as well as we should have, for this age of open competition. However, here we are celebrating a shining example of what can be achieved. In an age where we are often encouraged to believe that we cannot compete, and that we can only produce shoddy goods for shoddy third-world consumers, let us salute the vision and foresight of the management, staff and shareholders of this model company.

I leave you with the words of one of this year’s most inspiring calypsonians: "I know there will be mountains to climb… there will be rivers to cross, I know… but were going to make it through." Yes, Robby, I too believe!

I thank you.


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