After approximately two and a half years of construction, GraceKennedy Limited’s (GK)new headquarters at 42-56 Harbour Street is now complete. Representing an investment of over J$3.2 billion, the building was opened by Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a short ceremony held on May 29.
That ceremony followed the company’s annual general meeting (AGM), held in the new location, fulfilling a promise made by Group Chief Executive Officer Don Wehby at the AGM 2018.
Holness cut the ribbon to indicate the building’s official opening, and was taken on a brief tour before the ceremony began.
Addressing the gathering, Wehby spoke proudly of the new headquarters. “This building is so much more than a physical structure. It is really a manifestation of the vision of generations of GraceKennedy leaders, many of whom are with us here today. It shows where GraceKennedy is coming from, and a demonstration of the commitment we made in 1922 that downtown Kingston would always be our home. It shows where GraceKennedy is 97 years later, and where we are headed on our journey to becoming a global consumer group,” he said.
GRACEKENNEDY LEADERS The group CEO spoke to the many partnerships which led to the completion of the new building, and paid tribute to the GraceKennedy leaders, past and present, who followed their dream of investing in Jamaica.
“We engaged some of Jamaica’s best, along with some of the world’s best. Then we teamed up, very importantly, with the community to make this dream a reality.” Wehby pointed out that over 150 Jamaicans from communities in downtown Kingston worked on the construction project.
“What you are seeing here is a product of Jamaican hands from this community, building the GraceKennedy building. That’s what you are seeing. And you know what I found amazing? That when Jamaicans are given the opportunity, they work hard,” he said.
FOLLOW THEIR EXAMPLE Holness, who was the guest speaker, praised GraceKennedy for its commitment to Jamaica and urged other companies and their boards to follow the example set by GK in investing in the nation.
“We want more boards to sit down and, on behalf of their shareholders, take the calculated risk of making even greater investments in Jamaica,” Holness said. He noted that the community had benefited from the private decision of the shareholders and directors through the creation of jobs, and GraceKennedy would reap even more dividends from that as the community would see it as their building, thereby protecting it.
Also speaking at the event was Marcus Foster, a resident of Southside in Central Kingston and a former beneficiary of Grace and Staff Community Development Foundation, who was among the 150 residents from downtown Kingston involved in the construction. He said that working on the site had made a big difference in his life, as well as others in the community.
“The Grace site was a big learning for me. I started out as a labourer and by the time the building went up, I was doing carpentry, steelwork, and was making all the stirrups for this building. I learnt a lot from the Grace site that will stay with me for life. Working on this building now makes me a part of Jamaica’s history,” Foster said.
With the opening of the new headquarters, this brings to five the number of buildings occupied by GraceKennedy along the Kingston waterfront. Of the five, the building located at 64 Harbour Street housed the company’s operations when it started in 1922. The building at 73 to 75 Harbour Street will now serve as the headquarters for the Food Division’s domestic operations.