Long-time businessman Randolph Sandiford believes that the manufacturing sector in Barbados has been neglected by successive governments.
Sandiford, the managing director of Furniture Alliance and Matrix Marketing, told Barbados TODAY that while all the attention was being paid to international business and tourism, small and medium enterprises were being put on the back burner.
He said his business, which uses raw materials such as elephant grass and corn to produce stylish, unique and long-lasting furniture had the potential to generate valuable foreign exchange.
He disclosed that while he had a current staff complement of 19, at one point he employed 52 persons.
However, Sandiford said there had been a switch away from ‘blue collar’ jobs to ‘white collar’ jobs.
“When I was a little boy Grazettes Industrial Estate used to be a hive of activity, making umbrellas, clothes, furniture, and I can’t believe that we gave up all of those blue collar jobs with a hope of getting white collar jobs in informatics, international business and tourism. I can’t believe that we did that.”
Sandiford, whose business Matrix Marketing placed second in the National Innovation Award in 2010, pointed out that when Barbados’ economy was thriving, its manufacturing sector was at the forefront.
Having worked at the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce, Sandiford said he also had experience in policy advocacy.
He recounted that back in 1990, he helped to set up a small company which employed 152 people in the space of just 18 months.
That company, EDI, went on to win the award for Exporter of the Year two years later.
Sandiford maintained that small and medium enterprises had the capacity to contribute both socially and economically.
“Small and medium-sized companies in the manufacturing and food processing sectors have the ability and the capacity to make a contribution both socially and economically to the current situation as we need to produce our way out of the dilemma, rather than just talk.
“And whereas we may focus seemingly as a default on overall fiscal and other policies, production by way of the small and medium enterprises is a sure way to boost the country’s economy,” Sandiford said.
The businessman, who has been involved in manufacturing from the 1990s, said those enterprises, in particular, created numerous job opportunities for Barbadians.
In fact, Sandiford said that sector catered mostly to young persons who found it difficult accessing jobs.
“Socially we provide a lot of jobs for the blue collar, that hardcore group between the ages of 18 and 30, predominantly male, who are unable to find employment in some of the other subsectors, because that will be one of the challenges as we go forward under the structural adjustment programme; finding jobs for those who are unable to be absorbed into the international business or tourism sectors,” he said.