Sae-A Trading is the anchor tenant at Haitis Caracol Industrial Park (Photo credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID)

Sae-A Trading is the anchor tenant at Haiti's Caracol Industrial Park (Photo credit: Kendra Helmer/USAID)

Haiti has been declared "open for business," after a $300m manufacturing park in the northern town of Caracol was last week inaugurated at a star-studded event attended by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former US President Bill Clinton, as well as actors Sean Penn and Ben Stiller, and fashion designer Donna Karan.

The project has been a year in the making, and is part of multi-stakeholder efforts to help the country back to economic growth following a devastating earthquake two years ago.

It is set to create up to 40,000 jobs, many of which will be in apparel and textile production.

South Korean apparel giant Sae-A Trading Co is the biggest investor in the Caracol Industrial Park, and last month told just-style it is on track to begin production at the end of October.

The company supplies major retailers and brands including Zara, H&M, Adidas, Gap, Wal-Mart, Target and JC Penney, and has committed US$85m to set up new vertical operations that will provide jobs for 20,000 Haitian workers.

Dominican apparel manufacturer D'Clase has also signed a tenancy agreement and plans to employ as many as 3,600 workers. 

The 246-hectare park is being backed by the Haitian government, the US government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Since 2011 the IDB has provided $105m in grants for the development, with the US government contributing $124m. In addition to a power plant, USAID is building hundreds of houses in a new community close to the industrial park. 

As well as Haiti's first textile mill with knitting and dyeing facilities, the construction will include electrical power, health facilities, housing units, and modernised port facilities.

As the single largest sector of Haiti's economy, the apparel industry is seen as playing a key role in the country's recovery from the earthquake that hit the country on 12 January 2010, killing nearly 300,000 people and leaving millions homeless. The Caracol facility is also seen as a crucial step in helping to break Haiti's dependence on foreign aid.

Before the disaster, clothing exports to the US were worth around $512m in 2009 - around 90% of the country's total exports - and the industry employed more than 25,000 Haitians.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Haitian President Michel Martelly said: "Caracol is evidence that Haiti is irreversibly open for business." 

Former US President Bill Clinton, who is the UN special envoy for Haiti, said the industrial park would not only create jobs but also attract other development investments, becoming "an economic anchor for the region". 

Secretary Hillary Clinton added that as a result of the project, more than 100,000 people in the surrounding communities will have access to electricity.