In light of Trump’s bumbling approach to immigration and foreign workers, Nearshore countries should be stepping up to the opportunity of acquiring high-tech talent that is no longer welcome in the United States.
“With the Trump administration’s “America First” policies, the situation for foreign high-tech workers is not expected to change in the next couple of years and may deteriorate further.” said Bruce Zagaris, Partner at Berliner Corcoran & Rowe.
According to a recent article, Zagaris believes that the Caribbean is well-positioned to capitalize on this unfulfilled demand arising in the US. He singles out Barbados, which has comparatively good infrastructure for high-tech, but still needs to improve in some areas, such as educational opportunities and other incentives.
The Caribbean Opportunity
“High-tech companies will want to place workers in a jurisdiction in the same time-zone, and one which has a good infrastructure, good living conditions, and is safe,” writes Zagaris. “Although Canada seems to be the main alternative, Barbados and the Caribbean may be able to serve as an alternative for some of these jobs.”
Historically, the high-tech industry has been a part of the Caribbean for decades, specifically with Intel, which opened an assembly site in Barbados in 1977, and an assembly and test facility in Puerto Rico in 1981. Today, the region’s network and telecoms infrastructure – essential commodities for high-tech companies – is top-notch, particularly in Barbados.
The Barbados government has invested millions in resources and planning to create a more developed ICT infrastructure, and has the support of companies like Digicel, which provides an advanced cloud computing platform to businesses in the country.
Nowhere Near Ready
On the flip side, Dr. David E. Lewis, Vice President at Manchester Trade Limited, believes that, despite good incentives to invest, the region has a weak supply of competitive HR, is business unfriendly, and has terrible infrastructure for high-tech.
He cites Barbados in particular as being too expensive and not cost competitive enough to beat other destinations, such as Jamaica, Guyana, Dominican Republic, and Central American nations.
“If it were so attractive, businesses would be going there already,” he said. “Not to mention the fiscal/debt crisis in Barbados, which makes it very gloomy for anybody to consider investing, especially when the government is bent on no fiscal reform or flexibility.”
Still, due to the size and importance of the high-tech sector in the United States, companies there will continue to be under pressure to find high-tech workers, but without being able to obtain the necessary working visa quickly enough, that talent will go un-claimed, presenting the perfect moment for the Caribbean to welcome them with open arms.
This high-tech talent, once acquired, would benefit businesses and governments in the region in many ways, and would lead to a more rapid development of the IT services industry.
Even so, Zagaris believes that, in the present and short-term, high-tech firms are more likely to use Canada as a location to find talent and establish presence, so Caribbean governments and trade promotions agencies must step up their games before the opportunity is lost.