NEW TT Manufacturers Association president Franka Costelloe is keen to grow this country's manufacturing sector. Costelloe expressed this ambition when she addressed the TTMA's annual general meeting at the Hilton Trinidad, St Ann's on Tuesday.
Costelloe was appointed at the meeting and succeeds outgoing president Christopher Alcazar. She is the TTMA's 63rd president and the second woman appointed to the position.
While her appointment marked the association's commitment to equality and inclusion, Costelloe said, "I don’t want my tenure as president to be defined by either my gender or my age."
Like her predecessors, Costelloe said, "I expect to be judged by my performance." She said her top priority is "building a strategy in the manufacturing sector that has clear deliverables." That strategy must be "actionable by both government and private sector."
Costelloe said her drive to improve and grow the TTMA will be "one that adds value, not just for our members, but for our country." One way of adding that value, she continued, is boosting TT's export capability. She said her goal this year will be to lay the groundwork for the TTMA and the country "to double its production for export in manufactured goods over the next five years."
Costelloe was confident that all stakeholders (from private sector to civil society to government) want a more resilient economy. "The way to success is with an action plan, persistent, coordinated effort, unwavering optimism."
She said many citizens have creative ideas about how to improve business and build the economy, however unfortunately, many of these people are not given an opportunity to do so. For this reason, Costelloe said she wanted to "reposition the TTMA as a model of production for the region and beyond."
She said this dovetailed into the association's comprehensive manufacturing strategy with "clear intent to double manufacturing output through local and foreign investment." Representing 500 companies in an industry that employs ten per cent of TT's working population, Costelloe said, "growing the manufacturing industry is one of the most effective ways to stabilise the economy and bring value to future generations." She added that "a productive nation will reduce each of these problems plaguing us."
Those problems include crime, government bureaucracy, poor work ethic, corruption and lack of financing. She said the private sector needs to invest in training that is manufacturing specific. "We need more trades and less degrees, because it is skilled workers who are needed to strengthen the sector."
Costelloe said the State can help by changing certain programmes that restrict young people’s willingness to be trained, and the private sector’s ability to provide such training.
She also said the TTMA is investing in the entrepreneur. "We have now opened a new entrepreneur membership category, and set up special, affordable fees for this group." The TTMA, she said, is "partnering with angel investor programmes, pushing trade missions, and opening doors for financing options."
Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon congratulated Costello on her appointment, and thanked Alcazar for the association partnering with Government while the country was "deep in the throes of the recession."
Gopee-Scoon said then went on to declare, "We are out of the recession. We have had some small growth for 2018." She said Government was hoping to build on that growth this year and wanted the TTMA to help in those efforts. Identifying manufacturing as a "major pillar in the national diversification strategy," Gopee-Scoon said the sector is a major contributor to the gross domestic product, contributing just over $32 billion. She said a lot of those revenues came from the food and beverage sector.
Gopee-Scoon said contrary to what some critics have said, the manufacturing sector is "creating and sustaining jobs." She added that employment in the sector is estimated at 60,000 workers at this time. With the Caricom market saturated, Gopee-Scoon said attention must be paid to the wider Caribbean and extra-regional markets. She was pleased that manufacturers are already focusing on one of those markets, Cuba, and hoped they would "get some penetration" into other markets. She disclosed that the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean is helping to develop a 2019-2023 trade policy for Government, and a draft is currently being reviewed and will go to Cabinet soon.
Who's Franka Costelloe?
Costelloe is the TTMA's 63rd president and the second woman appointed to the position. The first was Karen De Montbrun (now deceased).
Costelloe has been a director at the TTMA for the last six years. She also sits on the board of First Citizens Bank Ltd, First Citizens Investment Services (Barbados) and is chairperson of the First Citizens Trustee Board. She is a director of Lifetime Roofing Ltd.
Costelloe has a master’s degree in building and construction management (with distinction), an associate degree in project management and a BSc in business administration with a major in human resources and master's certificate in corporate governance.