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SUPERPLUS FOOD STORES What does Michael Lee Chin have to do with the future of the Supermarket Chain controlled by this brother Wayne Chen?



“Are you closing down or what, how the shelves dem so empty?” remarked an irate shopper in the Superplus Liguanea branch, confronting one of the store attendants walking through the supermarket. “Is the same way the one down half way tree look” remarked another shopper passing by. A casual stroll through the Kingston located Superplus stores by this writer, revealed much truth in the comments and observations by the two shoppers.

According to one industry watcher, there are unconfirmed reports that the privately held and controlled Wayne Chen led Superplus chain is having problems making payments to suppliers who have now apparently cut off supplies hence the scanty shelves. But how this could be, with reported annual sales of over JA$11B Superplus should be awash in cash. “That how it appears on the surface, the supermarket business is a very thin margin business, ranging from 2-3% and so they may be generating a lot of cash, but very little profit” was how one financial analyst summed up the situation.

This begged the question. Is the supermarket business a good business to be in at this time or quite frankly at anytime? Which led us to ask a very obvious question? Would Michael Lee-Chin invest in the supermarket business?
Given his publicly stated investment views and posture the answer would and should be a resounding NO.

Michael Lee-Chin established investment philosophy is “buying few excellent businesses in long-term growth sectors and holding these businesses for the long term in order to help investors prosper by preserving and growing their capital and minimizing taxes.”
Lee Chins Investment Philosophy
• Use other people’s money
• Find a role model
• Invest in a few businesses you understand
• Stay committed to your investment philosophy
Given this posture would he have advised his siblings to invest in the supermarket business.

More questions. To what extent if he is, is Michael advising his brother Wayne on the merits of investing in the supermarket business? Is he telling Wayne to cut and run or hold for the long term?
Or better still does Lee Chin view the supermarket business as a good investment and is putting his money where his mouth is.

If you were a billionaire and a savvy successful investor with brothers and other family members in the supermarket business and they were having a hard time making money would you bail them out, would you put your own money in, but then you don’t use your own money, you use other people’s money. What would you do?

There are cynics who would suggest that Michael and companies under his control are already major investors or backers of the supermarket group. But would Michael really throw good money after bad or is it that he sees it as a good investment.

These are all relevant questions, as the answer will give a clearer picture on the way forward for Wayne Chen and the SuperPlus Chain of supermarkets.

If you don’t already know Wayne Chen is the younger brother of billionaire Michael Lee-Chen and while heading and running the Super Plus chain, overseas a number of his bigger brother business. He is the Chairman of NCB Insurance Company Limited, West Indies Trust Company Limited and CVM Communications Group, a Director of National Commercial Bank Jamaica, NCB (Cayman) Limited, AIC (Barbados) Limited and the Christiana Town Centre Limited.

Chen stripping the group

Wayne Chen


Wayne Chen announced in October last year that He was contracting the supermarket chain and would close a fifth store in Montego Bay but would expand others. Chen has been stripping the group of its loss-making stores indicating that the business was attempting to grow revenues by concentrating more on services like its cambio operations. Chen said that grocery had become the “loss leader” for the supermarket chain, but gave no specifics on the other business segments that were underperforming. Five stores have been culled from the group, and of the remaining 25, the majority, 22, are controlled by brothers Wayne and Richard Chen, while the others are held by other family members.
More than a decade ago, supermarket owners, hurting from market fragmentation and weak consumer spending, began a process of conglomeration with the hope of restoring profitability to their operations.

Progressive Grocers leads the charge

Back in 2003 there was a merging and acquisition frenzy going on in the supermarket sector with the consortium, Progressive Grocers acquiring four supermarkets in rural Jamaica, bringing to 18 the number in the chain, and helping to reinforce the oligopolistic market that has been developing within this industry.

The five-member grouping acquired a number of Jamaica’s independent supermarkets to become the second largest chain after SuperPlus Foods Stores, which operated at the time 27 outlets. GraceKennedy’s Hi-Lo had 15 shops. Together the three groupings controlled the lion’s share of the Jamaican market.

The acquisitions would give the Progressive Grocers even greater critical mass in procurement, to go up against SuperPlus, the industry’s behemoth that had also been on an expansion binge. The concept of the Progressive Grocers is to create an alliance that could jointly purchase goods to spread administrative cost in the management of this process, as well as marketing, and to create bargaining clout in procurement. Sources say, for example, that the group was also seeking to set up a central warehouse, a move that would allow it to further spread overhead cost.

At the time Hi-Lo had acquired six groceries and wholesales to control a total of 15 stores with plans to open another five stores later that year – one in Mandeville and Spanish Town, with the other three were supposed to be under construction. John Mahfood, former GraceKennedy chief operating officer in charge of retailing and projects at the time said that Hi-Lo would be adding between 5 and 6 stores per year over the next five years, bringing the total number to about 40. This has not materialised.

Not to be undone, Super Plus, with 27 stores at the time, also announced plans to open three more in Kingston.

Come 2006 Supermarket operators were crying out “We’re not making any money”. The tide had turned and the future looked dim.

So what went wrong?

Operating within an oligopolistic market – dominated by four major groups – Jamaica’s supermarkets were now bleeding red ink. This, the owners said, was the result of skyrocketing utility and other operating costs, interest burden on the debt associated with expansion, weak demand, and their inability to pass on costs to the increasingly price-sensitive consumer.

“Right now it is murder,” was how Wayne Chen characterised the business environment. “We are making a small profit, but we now have to be looking at liquidating non-core assets to cut our finance charges.”

In 2005/06 SuperPlus is reported to have recorded gross sales of $11 billion – making the group by far Jamaica’s largest retailer. Such critical mass was part of the business plan – to better spread overhead, give the group procurement clout, and improve its gross profit margin – all of which have been achieved. However, according to Chen, the steep increases in fixed and semi-fixed costs over the last two years have eaten away at the group’s net profit.

For example, there has been about a seventy per cent increase in the cost of electricity across the group over the past year. “Light bill at our Trafalgar Road location has moved from 800,000 to $1.4 million per month,” Chen told the Business Observer. In a business where red ink is all around, SuperPlus with its very small profit was, relatively speaking, holding its own.

GraceKennedy’s supermarket subsidiary, Hi-Lo, was reported to have lost $80 million that year. Hi-Lo’s electricity bill soared to $10 million per month, a 66 per cent increase on the $6 million previously. Security costs jumped by 20 per cent to $60 million. “Increase in costs, lower level in disposable income, compounded with a more competitive market make it challenging for companies,” noted Mahfood.

Hi-Lo by this time closed down two of its Kingston supermarkets – its branch at Tropical Plaza in 2004, and its Hagley Park Road store in 2005 reducing the Kingston branches to four, and the total number of stores islandwide to 13.

Ken Loshusan, operator of John R Wong Supermarket in New Kingston and Loshusan Supermarket Barbican Circle in Kingston, said his supermarkets were also not making any money. “How can you make money when light bill, rent etc. are all over a million dollars? We’re barely breaking even right now. We’re just creating employment, that’s it,” said Loshusan.

According to published reports, on average, the pre-taxation margin of supermarkets in the Progressive Group was about 20 per cent. However, increasing operational costs had eaten away at their margins, thus forcing most of the members into at best, break-even performance. “By the time we pay expenses, pay taxes we are left with nothing,” he complains. “If we raise (margins) half per cent, people will raise hell. All the expenses have skyrocketed. By the time we pay (expenses) we are left with nothing.”

In 2007 Progressive Grocers 28-member consortium comprised the second largest grouping of local supermarkets,

Chen commenting on the situation said that given the constraints faced by the industry in passing on costs to customers, there will be fallout within the industry.”We are gonna see some shakeout in the industry,” he declared.

“Sooner or later, some companies will have to drop out. By the end of the year, I expect some players to drop out.” Commented one operator.

Gassan Azan, the operator of MegaMart store and supermarket, said he too was experiencing sluggishness in the supermarket business, but that other non-supermarket items sold by his chain were helping to counter the fallout.

Like the other supermarkets, a major challenge at MegaMart was coping with the high electricity costs. For example, at MegaMart’s Waterloo Road, Kingston location, electricity cost had jumped from $1.1 million per month last year, to $1.7 million per month that year. At the other MegaMart store in Portmore, St Catherine, electricity cost had moved from $1.1 million per month to $1.8 million.

“Do you know how much more goods you have to sell to pay for the increase in light bill?” asked Azan. The two MegaMart stores had combined sales of $3.5 billion, but so far that year, sales have been flat, said Azan.

Moreover, according to Azan, the profit was generated mainly from the non-supermarket items which earned a much higher gross margin, and primarily at the Kingston store. “As a strategy, to achieve profitability what we have been doing is to push our non-food items,” he explained.

Chen cited several factors which he said accounted for the sluggishness in consumer spend at the island’s supermarkets. Among them: the tens of billions being spent each year on cellular phone usage. “The source of the money is not finite and it has to come from somewhere,” he said.

He also cited the increase in consumer electricity and fuel costs which divert consumer spending away from supermarket items, the slow-down in construction and its impact on purchasing power among working class Jamaicans. Chen also noted that the anti-crime measure ‘Operation King Fish’ had also curtailed criminal activities and their ability to fund consumption in the way they once did.

The SuperPlus boss says his stores have felt the impact of these factors.”Most stores in the chain are flat in Jamaican dollar terms, and some stores are down,” he told the Business Observer. “Some of the new ones continue to grow but at the expense at the older stores.”

But according to Chen, SuperPlus has been taking steps to improve its cash flow and financial position in light of the soft market.

“In some instances we are cutting back on wholesaling because of the margins,” he said. “We are looking at all of our resources that are not being utilized with a view to liquidating them to cut our bank finance cost. We are seeking to share the cost of running the business over a wider revenue base.”

A victim of its own success

Wayne Chen is obviously doing everything he can to diversify income streams and squeeze more margins out of the operation; these include building more money transfer facilities, ATMs, cambios, and pharmacies in its stores of which it now had five.

“The main push is to look at fixed cost. We have no control over rent so we need to offer more within the stores to defray them.”

It’s clear that the aggressive investment in new locations has not produced the desired results. SuperPlus’ success at growing into the largest retailer in Jamaica – in 2003, surpassing furniture retailer Courts – less than 10 years after the chain, which was started by Gloria Chen in the 1960s, and had been anchored in southern Jamaica, morphed into the well-organised corporate structure is today a victim of its own success.

Wayne Chen had declared his intention to aggressively grow the firm’s store count and roll out up to 400 additional items under the SuperPlus brand – moving the range to about 700 and, importantly, giving SuperPlus greater control over stocks and the ability to squeeze more profit in a business famous for its thin margins.

In recently published press reports Wayne Chen said he would not refuse a good offer for the islandwide family-owned supermarket chain, but says he has not put the company up for sale. Asked outright whether that meant SuperPlus was hunting a buyer, Chen dismissed it, but did not discount it as a future possibility. “Not at all,” he told the Financial Gleaner. “Not in the short term. We are right-sizing the company now,” he added.

Rumours however persist that Wayne is actively looking for a buyer for the reportedly money losing supermarket chain. But denials are in order until the ink has dried on the contract and the cheque handed over. Plans for an IPO must now be off the table given the current state of affairs and from all indications 2009 is going to be a very challenging one. Margins will be put under far more pressure and more red ink will flow throughout the sector.

And so we are back to Michael Lee Chin. Why? Well if we know for certain Michael’s views and investments in SuperPlus then we will know where it’s going.

Additional sources: Jamaica Observer

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Corporate Movements – June 2023



Dolla Financial Services Limited (Dolla) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mr. Kenroy Kerr to the position of Deputy Chief Executive Officer effective July 1, 2023. Mr. Kerr previously held the position of Chief Operations Officer at Dolla. Dolla looks forward to the new role Mr. Kerr will play in the further growth and development of the Company.

MASSY HOLDINGS LTD. The Company wishes to advise that Mrs. Anjen Mc Lean resigned as the Vice President & Group Chief Risk Officer which will be effective, July 21, 2023. The Chairman and the Board of Directors would like to thank Mrs. Mc Lean for her years of dedicated service to the Group.

JFP Limited wishes to advise that Miss Maureen Hassan has resigned as Human Resource Officer with effect from June 8, 2023. JFP Limited takes this opportunity to sincerely thank Miss Hassan for her contribution and wishes her well in the future. Miss Hassan will be leaving the Company for personal reasons.

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CPJ Announces Plans For Three Major Projects



The Management of CPJ has announce that the Board of Directors has approved plans for three major projects that will positively impact the growth and further development of the Company both locally and offshore.

The Board has approved plans for a U$1M solar expansion project, with installation to commence in Q1 of FY2024. The Board has also approved a U$2.3M plans for the modernization of the Meat Processing Plant, with work to commence in Q1 of 2024. Off-shore, CPJ will be expanding its Operation in St. Lucia with a new store, final plans are being put in place with Operations to begin in Q2 of FY2024.

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Dawgen Global and NeedStreet Web Technologies Join Forces to Transform Healthcare in the Caribbean



Dawgen Global, a renowned multidisciplinary professional service firm specializing in innovative business solutions, is proud to announce its partnership with
NeedStreet Web Technologies Pvt Ltd. as the authorized reseller of ContinuousCareTM, an innovative telemedicine and telehealth software platform, across numerous Caribbean nations.

The collaboration between Dawgen Global and NeedStreet marks a significant milestone in healthcare provision for the Caribbean region. ContinuousCare's groundbreaking capabilities are set to revolutionize healthcare delivery, ensuring communities have uninterrupted access to vital healthcare services. By connecting medical practitioners, governments, and other stakeholders, this software is poised to transform healthcare accessibility throughout the Caribbean.

Dr. Dawkins Brown, the Executive Chairman of Dawgen Global, expressed his enthusiasm for the partnership, stating, “Our collaboration with NeedStreet represents a transformative leap in health care provision for the Caribbean. We are truly excited to bring ContinuousCare’s capabilities to medical practitioners, governments, and other stakeholders. This software will revolutionize healthcare delivery, ensuring our communities have constant, reliable access to vital healthcare services.”

ContinuousCareTM, developed by NeedStreet Web Technologies, is a comprehensive telemedicine and telehealth software solution that empowers healthcare providers to connect with their patients and efficiently manage their practices online. This robust platform encompasses various essential features, including practice marketing, reputation management, patient engagement, telehealth services, and practice management tools.

The software’s  feature set includes a marketing-ready website integrated with online appointments for both in-person and telehealth visits, online payment processing, and telehealth features such as video calls, asynchronous telehealth consultations, and remote patient monitoring. The integrated patient portal enables patients to access and update their health data and engage in telehealth sessions with their healthcare providers. Additionally, providers benefit from a comprehensive admin console that streamlines practice management and automates patient engagement through various channels, including SMS, email, WhatsApp, and push notifications. To ensure seamless connectivity on the go, both patients and providers can access mobile apps, and the platform seamlessly
integrates with a range of Bluetooth and server-based health devices, allowing patients to automatically send their health data to their providers.

ContinuousCareTM is also set to incorporate cutting-edge generative AI technologies from OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, which will introduce a range of AI-based features to further enhance the platform’s capabilities.

Ms. Chenju Venugopal, Director of Customer Development at NeedStreet Web Technologies, expressed her excitement about the partnership, stating, “This collaboration signifies a shared commitment to improving patient care through technological innovation. We are thrilled to work alongside Dawgen Global to empower healthcare providers with the tools they need to manage and monitor their patients remotely.”

By securely connecting healthcare providers and patients, ContinuousCareTM enhances the understanding of personalized healthcare needs and facilitates the interpretation of health data.

This powerful software platform offers health practitioners in the Caribbean region an effective, convenient, and responsive solution to support chronic patients.

With the expansion of ContinuousCareTM across numerous Caribbean nations, including the Bahamas, Jamaica, Barbados, Bermuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Antigua, Turks and Caicos, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Cayman Islands, Trinidad & Tobago, Dominica, Belize, Bahamas, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dawgen Global and NeedStreet Web Technologies are driving a transformative shift in healthcare accessibility throughout the region.

About Dawgen Global
Dawgen Global is a multidisciplinary professional service firm that provides innovative business solutions to a diverse clientele. With a commitment to excellence, Dawgen Global specializes in delivering cutting-edge services across various industries, ranging from finance and technology to healthcare and beyond

About NeedStreet Web Technologies Pvt Ltd

Founded in 2011, NeedStreet is an Indian corporation dedicated to providing innovative technology solutions in various domains. Their ContinuousCareTM platform is designed to enhance the healthcare delivery system, promoting better accessibility, and patient engagement.

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Business Events

Jamaica To Reveal New Outsourcing Brand At Upcoming Global Digital Services Conference



Jamaica is set to launch its re-imagined outsourcing proposition to hundreds of entrepreneurs, business leaders and executives from multinational corporations, global startups and trade promotion organisations when the country hosts the upcoming Outsource to Latin America and the Caribbean Global Digital Services Summit (O2LAC) from June 14 -15 in Montego Bay.

Jamaica will be the first English-speaking nation from the Latin America and Caribbean bloc to host this Summit, which will be its ninth edition. O2LAC was created by the Inter-American Development Bank’s Integration and Trade Sector with the goal of unleashing the region’s full potential in the global digital services sector. Business leaders will learn about breakthroughs in emerging technologies such as AI. They will discover advanced capabilities in strategic Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), and Information Technology Outsourcing (ITO), as well as identify new business opportunities through B2B and B2G matchmaking events.

As Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Senator the Honourable, Aubyn Hill, explains that “O2LAC presents a prime opportunity for the Government of Jamaica and its partners to introduce Jamaica’s re-energized global digital services sector offerings to the largest gathering of prospective services buyers and suppliers in the region. We have been working hard to enhance and elevate Jamaica’s product offerings and the launch of our new Global Campaign at O2LAC will communicate our unique value proposition, and cement our brand in the minds of executives, entrepreneurs and experts as the superior option for global businesses seeking to upscale their outsourcing goals and growth results”.

Jamaica is already a mature Outsourcing location and home to companies such as Conduent, Itel, Sutherland Global, Sagility, Startek and IBEX. Most of these companies provide services to some of the top Fortune 50 businesses. With over 85 companies currently in operation and annual revenue close to US$1billion, while employing over 60,000 people, the country has the largest Outsourcing Sector in the English-speaking Caribbean. Special Economic Zone incentives allow for duty concessions and reduced corporate income taxes, and continuous investments in telecoms and electricity infrastructure ensure stable power and broadband capabilities that make Jamaica a destination of choice.

The new National Investment Policy includes a raft of economic policies, initiatives and support measures designed to make it easier to establish businesses in the country. The continual efforts of Jamaica’s Global Digital Services Sector (GDSS) Project to enhance training, certification and create new job opportunities within the sector, will re- energize the Jamaican market to welcome a new cadre of Fortune 1,000 companies.

President of Jamaica Promotion Corporation (JAMPRO), Shullette Cox, says, “What we will be discussing at O2LAC will be vital to ensuring that business leaders understand how they can harness the full potential of Jamaica’s expanding global digital services sector. We will specifically demonstrate how Jamaica’s offerings can be tailored to solve any concerns in the global digital services sector. For instance, in the area of skills training, we are continuously enhancing our capabilities. Through the GDSS Project we are creating training, apprenticeship, internship, certification and train-the-trainer programmes. When these are coupled with the GDSS Talent Hub and Career Pathway Framework, we will be able to connect consistently thousands of talented Jamaicans with the specialised training which will enable them to work in the sector. The campaign launch will enable far greater understanding of how best to access and synergise the
very best outsourcing services that Jamaica has to offer.”

O2LAC is expected to attract up to 600 local, regional and international attendees. Event speakers include: Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Senator the Honourable, Aubyn Hill; Manager, Integration and Trade Sector, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Fabrizio Opertti; Deputy Director of AI for Good Research Lab, Rahul Dodhia; Head of Global Services for Carrier, Steve Rudderham; President of the Global Services Association of Jamaica, Anand Biradar; and several Latin American business leaders along with other representatives from the IDB.

Fabrizio Opertti, IDB Manager of the Integration and Trade Sector stated, “We believe in Latin America and the Caribbean’s potential as a global service delivery platform, offering unrivaled quality, early technology adoption, and contributions from SMEs, entrepreneurs, and startups. Outsource2LAC is instrumental in consolidating our regions position as major player in global digital services exports”;. The Global Digital Services Sector is projected to grow to US$1 Trillion by 2025 with business outsourcing in Latin America and the Caribbean accounting for over $10 billion in regional revenues and investment. As the country named the Best Caribbean Nation for Doing Business by Forbes (2019), Jamaica is aiming to build on its impressive performance in the industry to catapult its way to being the premier Outsourcing destination in Latin America and the Caribbean.

For more information about O2LAC and to review the agenda, please visit

Inicio mayo 23

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Government of Jamaica and Georgia Aquarium Sign Blue Economy MoU



Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Senator the Hon. Aubyn Hill, (third right) and President and Chief Executive Officer of Georgia Aquarium, Dr. Brian Davis (second left) sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which will facilitate the exploration of opportunities in the blue economy. Looking on (from left) are Director of Policy at the Georgia Aquarium, Dr. Dayne Buddo; President of Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), Shullette Cox; and Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Special Economic Zone Authority, Mrs. Kelli-Dawn Hamilton. Others from (background, left) are Jamaica’s Consul General to Miami, Oliver Mair, and Jamaica’s honorary consul to Atlanta, Dr. Elaine Bryan. The MoU was signed at a reception hosted by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta at the Georgia Aquarium on Wednesday (May 24).


Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Senator the Hon. Aubyn Hill, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Georgia Aquarium, as Jamaica explores opportunities in the blue economy towards national development.

The MoU was signed at a reception hosted by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta, at the Georgia Aquarium on Wednesday (May 24), and formed part of the Minister’s two-day trade visit to Atlanta.

The World Bank defines the blue economy as the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs, while preserving the health of the marine and coastal ecosystem.

In his remarks, Senator Hill said Jamaica was pleased to be a part of the blue economy initiative.

He commended Jamaica’s Consul General to Miami with responsibility to Atlanta Oliver Mair, whose initiative it was to partner with the Atlanta Aquarium.

For his part, President and Chief Executive Officer of Georgia Aquarium, Dr. Brian Davis, explained that the memorandum signed, was made possible from previous meetings, as well as work conducted over the last two years in Jamaica with local partners.

“We believe that we are in a strong position to explore working closely with the Government of Jamaica in a number of aspects,” Dr. Davis said.

Under the signed MoU, commercial cooperation by way of the purchase of ornamental fish for their location, as well as the aquarium industry in the United States of America (USA) is expected.

In addition, the Atlanta Aquarium will be working with the Government of Jamaica to assist in skills and capacity training and development, to support aquatic sustainability including animal care and life support systems.

Both parties will also work towards the protection of important marine areas through the establishment of fish sanctuaries in Jamaica. This will build on the work done so far in Jamaica, for the two new sanctuaries being gazetted.

Also, under the MoU, Georgia Aquarium will work with the Government of Jamaica to conduct research and education on sharks, towards the possible establishment of a shark sanctuary in Jamaica.

An exchange programme is also being looked at to facilitate the exchange of students and early career professionals, to gain exposure to relevant training programmes and environments both in the USA and Jamaica.

Both parties will also work towards the establishment of a Port Royal exhibition at the Georgia Aquarium, which will highlight Port Royal and the marine protected areas.

The Georgia Aquarium is the most popular visitor attraction in the state of Georgia, generating over US$120 million in estimated annual revenues, and has stimulated over US$5 billion of investments in the city of Atlanta.

While in Atlanta, Senator Hill met with several business interests and addressed a business breakfast sponsored by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce of Altana.

He also attended a town hall meeting by members of the Jamaican community in Atlanta.

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