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The global economic shock from the fallout of COVID-19, one industry that was able to get a boost was janitorial and sanitation services, Jacden Enterprises Limited being one player which benefited in this manner.

A jack of all trades which also delves into construction, garment manufacturing, and medical/pharmaceutical services, the company fared well during this difficult time.

When COVID-19 hit the country in early March, Jacden was enlisted by the Ministry of Health to provide cleaning and sanitisation services at the first quarantine centre in St Thomas.

Since then Jacden has been servicing seven of the quarantine centres, in addition to its fixed, long-term contracts for all of the Ministry of Health’s administrative offices in New Kingston.

It also currently provides janitorial and portering services at Kingston Public Hospital, Victoria Jubilee Hospital and Bustamante Hospital for Children.

Anserd Williams, president of Jacden, in a Jamaica Observer last week said that the company conducted thorough research on COVID-19.

That research lead Jacden to the new ready-to-use VitalOxide, a United States Environmental Protection Agency-registered hospital disinfectant cleaner, mould killer, and odour eliminator.

According to Williams, the chemical kills 99.99 per cent of all airborne bacterial viruses — including SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“We did the research and found that this thing was very effective and better than bleach. Bleach, once it dries, becomes inactive. But this product, when it dries on a surface, up to 14 days after when you wipe the surface again it reactivates, because it leaves a protective barrier. When we clean, we not only just wipe surfaces, we use a heat process with the sanitisers, and the final step is to fumigate the facility with VitalOxide,” Williams told Observer Sunday Finance.

“It’s not a cheap product but it is effective, and we have decided that we are going to use it – as expensive as it is – in our process because it gives a higher level of protection,” he continued. He disclosed that the company spent over $9 million in acquiring this product.

“Because of COVID-19 the scope of work has changed, you have to be wiping more often and it requires more staff. We recently secured a contract for sanitising for the Jamaica Customs Agency right across the island…so I would say it’s paying off,” he said.

While Jacden currently employs close to 1,000 people within the group with the janitorial services accounting for around 800, Williams said it also invests heavily in technology – namely foggers, misting machines and heat treatment machines.

Despite the uptick in its janitorial and sanitation services, Willams said the company faces challenges in finding qualified people. To this end, it has decided to officially develop its training programme.

“Cleaning and sanitation is not something that you can take lightly; it is a very technical and exacting process if it’s going to be done properly. Over time we have had a training programme but we are stepping up, and we have now initiated discussions with a tertiary institution that will host that training programme for us so that people can get certified by an accredited institution,” the president said.

He further asserted that customer service is integral to not only the company’s operations but to its foundation, and that its quality of work speaks for itself.

“Our slogan is ‘Customer satisfaction is our business’, and we take that seriously. We clean from a pin to an anchor. We’re in business but we are conscious of the fact that money is not the driving force. If you satisfy your clients, the money will come. So we don’t approach a job just because of the financial returns but we believe that once the customer is satisfied, the returns will come,” he said.

He added that the satisfied customer then becomes its major advertising platform.

While the core function of the company is janitorial and sanitation services, when it was established 12 years ago Jacden started with construction. It is now a grade 2 contractor registered with the National Contracts Commission that spans a gamut of roads, housing, civil construction, and electrical works.

“We have built some homes for the National Housing Trust, and we were a part of the group of contractors that did the buildout for the Granville housing scheme in Trelawny recently. We also have worked for the National Works Agency,” he said.

“[We’re] seeing an uptick [in this aspect of the business] and in fact nationally, construction has been doing well. The only regret is that the Chinese has the major contracts so some of us can only do subcontracting work. Right now we have five projects on the ground as we speak, three in St Thomas, one in Kingston and one in Manchester, so we’re holding our own where that is concerned,” Williams informed.

With janitorial and sanitation and construction already successfully under its belt, the president indicated that garment manufacturing was born out of a need.

“The need to provide uniforms for our staff is what lead us to garment manufacturing. We started with four machines and three ladies; now we have a suite of machines and a much larger staff but now we have the problem of finding the time to produce our own. It has grown significantly in the last four years to the extent that we are now exporting. We have been able to forge those links and we see significant growth where that is concerned,” he stated.

Jacden exports to Grenada, Antigua and to the US. In addition, it also makes school wear for schools in Jamaica such as Wolmer’s, Mannings, Camperdown High, and sportswear for GC Foster College.

The company also does screen printing and logo stitching.

Looking ahead, Williams said that while the medical/pharmaceutical aspect of Jacden is fairly new, the company already has another project underway.

“We have signed a memorandum of understanding with an Indian pharmaceutical company, Belinda Laboratories, and we will be distributing a range of pharmaceutical supplies, initially in Jamaica, but with a regional outlook. We are currently registering the products with the relevant statutory authorities and that is something that we are excited about for the future,” he said.

“We know that this is going to be a game changer. Pharmaceutical products are expensive but with our association with the hospitals we became acutely aware of the problems that people were having in purchasing the relevant drugs that they need. The Government has done a good job in respect to the National Health Fund but that in itself does not cover everything, and we are positioning ourselves to come into the market to respond to that need for good, efficacious and cost-effective products,” he continued.

To this end, Jacden has also recently acquired the building next to its 18 3/4 Lyndhurst Road location to house this new aspect of the company.

“We’re also looking at the possibility of having a small medical dialysis centre, and we’re exploring that very avidly right now. That in itself is a great need and we find that with the sort of links that we’re able to make, we’re in a position to offer that service,” Williams said.

By Abbion Robinson

Jamaica Observer