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Thursday, 03 June 2021

Businessman battles to keep $2b parts remanufacture dream alive

Gordon Baldie’s plan to build out a car part remanufacturing and recycling operation in western Jamaica at a cost of just over US$18 million, or about JA$2.7 billion, won him  the Jamaica Stock Exchange pitch competition in 2018.

Since then, the equity partnership and funding he has been seeking has eluded him,  and he has not been in a position to put up the collateral backing for debt financing, even concessionary loans set aside for micro, small, and medium enterprise financing  facilitated by state lenders like the Development Bank of Jamaica. And EXIM Bank.

Still, Baldie, 51, is looking for equity financing for the business, even as he is now said  to be recasting his budget and tweaking strategies in the wake of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and was not able to share final costs with the financial Gleaner during an interview this week.

“The broad parameters remain the same, the market has been growing, the need for the products and service is large and growing, and the need to provide employment for skilled young mechanics being turned out by HEART Trust is urgent,” said the businessman, who operated a used-car dealership in Montego Bay for many years, before shutting that business and selling off its assets to focus on the parts  remanufacturing start-up.

The CEO of the Inter-Caribbean Automotive Parts remanufacture & Distribution  Company, ICARD, is trying to tap into a market that trade publications report is  projected to grow to US$91 billion or more by 2026.

He has leased premises from Factories Corporation of Jamaica, FCJ, and refurbished  the location out of pocket at a cost of more than JA$20 million to set up shop at  Hague, on the outskirts of Falmouth in Trelawny. There, he began auto parts trading  importing from Japan and China, for wholesale trading to auto parts sellers locally, to fund what he described as preparatory work for ICARD, which has seen investments  that Baldie estimates at close to JA$100 million, out of operations and savings.

Baldie says, since the onset of the pandemic, he has been hard-pressed to service the rental on the FCJ building that, before he leased and refurbished it, had been a garment factory, with the building having been closed for about 14 years. The FCJ, he says, is now threatening to repossess the premises, for which its registration is a social-economic zone, including fee payment, had advanced just before the pandemic.

The operations, once up and running, would involve the recruitment of HEART/NSTA Trust-trained mechanics from Montego Bay and surrounding communities to remanufacture some auto parts for sale locally, into Caricom markets and, he had hoped, also into North America through existing trade agreements. The products under consideration for remanufacturing by ICARD are diesel engines, turbo engines, transmissions, air-conditioning compressors, injectors, and power steering parts.

To gauge the demand locally, Baldie says, he held discussions with many local firms  and government entities with large fleets, including the Jamaica Urban Transit Corporation, National water Commission and the Jamaica Constabulary Force. These entities, he says are facing a critical shortage of parts to repair their fleets, even as they also have a large stock of discarded parts that could be remanufactured.

“For too long, too many businesses have been focusing on trading. For real growth in companies, industries, and the Jamaican economy, we have to tap into training and value-added manufacturing, utilizing the various technologies that are available and that can be applied for greater returns and value,” he said.

The business, for which he says he traveled widely to Europe, United Kingdom, Brazil, Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and elsewhere, involves recycling, remanufacturing, and reusing automotive parts. Those visits over the three years since 2018, have been focused on learning cutting-edge and international best practices while trying to find joint-venture partnerships.

One Chinese firm JBX Recycle, specialising in recycling, is now said to be in talks with ICARD on the recycling aspect of the business. The recycling of old motor vehicle tires to produce virgin rubber. Baldie said is a potentially lucrative area.

“Some large Jamaican companies that have shown interest said that they will come in on the second round of the investment as their rules prohibit them from investing in start-ups,” he said of the stumbling blocks he has encountered.

“Corporations overseas have been wary of investing in foreign jurisdictions. Additionally, I have been unable to put together the money needed to take up some partnership offers that have come my way,” Baldie said.

The foreign visits have unearthed companies in China, Europe, and the United States already involved in parts remanufacturing, but which, so far, are only prepared to provide training and expertise as their investment for a small percentage of the business, he said.

Read the original article by the Jamaica Gleaner

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