Caribbean Beat Magazine

A stroll in the InTech park

Cars are banned, there’s a butterfly reserve in it – but this east Trinidad project is also on the cutting edge of science and green technology

  • A bird`s eye view of the park before development. Photograph courtesy e TecK
  • An interior view of e TecK's flagship building. Photograph courtesy e TecK

A deserted World War II airfield in east Trinidad is going to become a park. It will be home to dozens of species of butterflies, and no cars will be allowed inside.

But there will be people. The environment-friendly buildings scattered around this green space will house innovative, cutting-edge industries. This is definitely a 21st-century park.

InTech Park at Tamana, Wallerfield, is a business-support initiative being developed by e TecK to generate jobs in knowledge-based industry.

“The essence of Tamana is [that] it is a science and technology park,” said Tricia Henry, a business analyst with e TecK. “From start-ups to mature companies, they must add value to their business processes.”

The 1,100-acre site in northeast Trinidad, inaugurated in November 2005, will be the first science and technology park in the country. So e TecK is targeting companies for Tamana that deal with technology, plastics, light metals, medical products and electronics, and other knowledge-based enterprises. It will also explore firms that do earth-science research and energy studies, environmental companies, food technology, and information and communications technology (ICT).

The park will also house the core campus of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), as the centre of research education and practical integration with manufacturing operations. The UTT will be the park’s largest tenant, and the thinking behind its presence is that companies’ access to UTT could create and develop mutually beneficial synergies.

Henry said e TecK is targeting local and international information communication and technology companies, ones involved in software development, firms which do high-value manufacturing, companies whose operations have a research and development component, and companies which are innovative and interested in finding new ways of doing things.

A major part of e TecK’s mandate is to develop light industrial estates by encouraging diversification into the non-energy and downstream sector. The company’s slogan says: “We are Trinidad and Tobago, we are next.”

“What we are saying is we are the next in ICT, we are the next leader in agro-technology, we are the next leader in downstream energy projects.”

The company has been using that brand to promote Trinidad and Tobago in China, Europe, and the United States, in such publications as the Economist and the Financial Times, and at trade missions, trade shows and conferences.

Shurla Henry-Gibson, senior investment promotion officer, said e TecK is looking to attract “international anchor tenants” – the likes of HP, Apple and IBM.

“With those companies, at some other industrial parks, their suppliers tend to set up around them,” she said.

A foreign firm wishing to relocate its staff and their families to Tamana will benefit from on-site housing, entertainment, medical facilities and schools.

Tamana has already attracted interest from potential clients, including software developers, biometrics researchers and business intelligence incubators, mainly from the United States.

“There are certain features we try to promote: T&T’s geographic location, the English-speaking population, the high literacy levels, access to the Americas, bilateral agreements that we have with some of the neighbouring countries, such as Costa Rica, CaribCan, Caricom,” said Renata Sukhu, investment promotion officer.

InTech Park is intended to represent the move from traditional business practices to technologically-oriented economic development as part of Trinidad and Tobago’s projected transition to developed-country status.

Plans for the park

Tamana InTech Park, to be developed in phases, will be outfitted with underground utility corridors for street lighting, electrical installation, telecommunications and ICT network enabling. Park tenants, students and guests can expect to enjoy Wi-Fi coverage, Internet access, and a range of connectivity and data-centre services. Tenants can rent space in a three-storey,15,000-square-foot office building with a state-of-the-art, customisable ICT infrastructure and security system. The park will have a potable water and fire water system, a natural gas ring, a wastewater transmission system, a wastewater treatment facility and an electrical sub-station. Five roads have been laid down.

The eight-floor flagship building planned for e TecK, whose design has already won awards, will be the first LEED-certified project in Trinidad and Tobago. LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a system for rating green buildings.

The building will maximise the use of renewable solar energy, and will have air-quality sensors and energy-efficient systems for lighting, ventilation and air conditioning. Rainwater will be used to flush the toilets.

Due for completion at the end of this year, the e TecK building is a symbol of the green, smart technologies it’s hoped the park will represent. The building will be complemented by the eco-industrial park, which will remain 30 per cent green. That means buildings will not be too close to one another. There will be no driving within the park; instead people will be shuttled in. There will be walking trails as well as a pool, and a butterfly sanctuary – shaped like a butterfly – on 15 acres of land, which will be home to more than 30 local species.

“That is a huge feature of the park,” Henry said. “Being able to offer not just a work environment or a business-collaboration environment, but also an environment where people will enjoy coming to work.”

The park will be divided into four clusters:

•  Information communication and technology
•  Knowledge-based and high-value manufacturing
•  Agro-industrial
•  Mixed use

Why Trinidad?

Why would an international ICT-type company look to set up shop in Trinidad? What advantages does Trinidad offer?

Foreign investors can use Tamana as a launch pad to tap into the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) market or to access North or South America. They will also have preferential access to international markets, thanks to wide-ranging trade agreements.

Trinidad and Tobago has emerged as one of the major players in the multilateral trading system with one of the highest rates of foreign direct investment in the region.

Trinidad also offers:
•  a competitive cost structure
•  an educated labour force
•  bilateral investment and taxation treaties
•  no foreign-exchange controls
•  100 per cent ownership of locally-registered private companies
•  facilitation of land purchases
•  repatriation of funds
•  arbitration
•  exemption from value added tax (VAT), customs duty and various other taxes
•  enabling legislation
•  special advisory services for investorse T&T
•  Internet subscription has risen 31.4 per cent a year since 2001, with a cumulative penetration rate of 80 per cent
•  revenue from telecommunications and broadcasting sectors totals TT$518 million annually
•  over the past five years, fixed-line, mobile, subscription, broadcasting and Internet subscriber base have increased by 288.4 per cent
•  over the past four years, mobile and wireless usage has risen 80 per cent
•  mobile-phone  penetration is an estimated 126.6 per cent

Why Tamana?

The choice of Tamana is symbolic. Mt Tamana rises in the very centre of the land mass of Trinidad, and the UTT campus will be at the geographical centre of Trinidad and Tobago.

The area is rich with history. Wallerfield was commissioned on October 28, 1941. It was named after Major Alfred J Waller, an American air corps pilot who lost his life in an aircraft crash in 1937.

According to military historian Gaylord Kelshall, writing in U-Boat War in the Caribbean:

“Waller Field was to have its moment in world history. The massive movement of troops from the US and from Europe, ultimately to the Pacific theatre of war, was routed through Waller Field. It was at that time the largest airlift ever attempted. Just as Chaguaramas in 1943 had become one of the largest naval bases in the world, Waller Field was now the largest air base.”

“The Waller Field airlift operation could not last long, but it became the model for the later Berlin airlift. By the end of 1945, although not abandoned, Waller Field was almost deserted. By 1949, the field was closed and began to fall into decay.”

That old airfield, decommissioned more than 60 years ago, is now being revived for an entirely new purpose.

About eTecK

Evolving TecKnologies and Enterprise Development Company Ltd (e TecK), a special-purpose state enterprise, is focused on developing new business in Trinidad and Tobago, particularly in thefledgling information communications and technology (ICT) andknowledge-based industries.

One aspect of its mandate is to develop light industrial parks to diversify Trinidad and Tobago’s non-energy sector. The company has also been responsible for managing the multi-million-dollar upgrade and expansion of the Hilton Trinidad.

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