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Building Guam

Will Hawaii profit from the boom?

(page 1 of 3)

Denny Watts, president of Watts Contructors
Photo: Rae Huo

When the U.S. and Japanese governments announced plans in 2006 to move nearly 8,000 U.S. Marines and 9,000 dependents from Okinawa to Guam, they set in motion what may become one of the largest building booms of this era. Big Hawaii construction companies are already planning for this enormous buildup, which is expected to take more than five years. Smaller Hawaii contractors can also get a lucrative piece of the action, but only if they are willing to take on risks and a learning curve.

The military realignment will make the island of Guam, America’s westernmost territory, the vanguard of U.S. forces in Asia. The undertaking is enormous. Simply accommodating the arrival of the Marines, for example, will require the construction of everything from enlisted and officers quarters, to support and training facilities, to gyms and recreation centers, to infrastructure like roads, sewers, potable water plants and communications facilities.

The relocation of the Marines is only part of the story. Military development in Guam will also include missile defenses, docks and support facilities for an aircraft carrier, and substantial increases in Air Force and Coast Guard operations. In all, NAVFAC Marianas — the entity coordinating all the work — expects to spend at least $14 billion, nearly a third of which will be paid by Japan.

Strategic Partnerships

In Hawaii, the most likely beneficiaries will be the large military contractors – dck pacific, Actus Lend/Lease, Kiewit Building Group, Watts Constructors, et al. – many of which already have experience in Guam. But even these companies will be dwarfed by the work. Getting it done will require unprecedented partnerships. Because of the scale, most contractors expect NAVFAC to use a form of procurement know as Multiple Award Construction Contracts. Under the MACC process, probably only four or five teams of contractors will even qualify to bid. Given the size and variety of the projects – NAVFAC says they’ll range from $15 million to $300 million – successful teams will need to demonstrate many skills.

According to Denny Watts, president of Watts Constructors, and perhaps the dean of Hawaii-based contractors in Guam, finding the right strategic partners is key. “We’ve been going through that for the last year,” he says. “We’ve talked to maybe 25 of the best organizations in the world to determine who we want to be partners with for the long term.

“We’re looking for partners with competencies in things that maybe we aren’t as strong at. That’s because these contracts will vary between sophisticated marine projects, to technically complicated infrastructure, to basic living quarters. Your team has to show expertise in all those capabilities.”

To complicate matters further, the bidding process has to be precise. “These are all hard-bid, hard-number contracts,” Watts says. “It’s not like in the Middle East where they were cost reimbursable. You’re at risk here. It’s not for the faint of heart.”

Labor Pains

Many of the most nettlesome problems facing contractors revolve around workforce management. “There are only 2,000 to 3,000 construction workers on the island presently,” says Roger Peters, general manager of dck pacific. “At peak, they feel there will be the need for 25,000 to 30,000 construction workers. So, the challenge is: Where do you get that many skilled workers?” Of course, with a population of about 170,000, labor shortages have long been a problem for Guam. “Traditionally, what’s been done is they bring in labor from the Philippines,” Peters says. At this scale, though, he notes that may not be adequate. “I think you’re looking at a global supply: Filipinos, Indians, even Mexicans.”

Perhaps more critical than finding skilled labor is identifying the foremen and supervisory staff to manage them. Companies like dck pacific and Watts Constructors, which have been working in Guam for years, already have trained crews and experienced supervisors, though not nearly enough to handle all the new work. Other teams will likely have to bring in most of their foremen and supervisors from off-island. Recruiting these positions for Guam has always been difficult. Even Hawaii workers have historically been reluctant to relocate to Guam. But companies like dck pacific will have to persuade them. “That’s not just Hawaii, either,” says Peters. “We’re offering these opportunities to people in our home office in Pittsburgh, to people in Atlanta, even to people in the Caribbean.”

Finding the workers is just the beginning. The MACC bidding process also requires the contractor to plan for their accommodation. “You have to explain how you’re going to house them, feed them, entertain them and care for their health,” Peters says.


Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Old to new | New to old
Oct 28, 2009 05:22 pm
 Posted by  findfitz

How do I find out about job opportunities for the Guam expansion. I am a certified inspector and would like to inquire about employment possibilities. Thank you

This has been flagged
Jan 7, 2010 06:39 pm
 Posted by  viv

When will the Guam project get into high gear?

This has been flagged
Mar 8, 2010 04:23 pm
 Posted by  ciddester

I am an HVAC technician with extensive experience in construction A/C. Are there any companies looking to employed for it? I been looking for months without any luck. Could you point me in the right direction?

This has been flagged
Mar 8, 2010 04:24 pm
 Posted by  ciddester

I am an HVAC technician with extensive experience in construction A/C. Are there any companies looking to employed for it? I been looking for months without any luck. Could you point me in the right direction?

This has been flagged
Nov 8, 2010 12:11 am
 Posted by  levi

Good day . I'm from the Philippines , willing to assign any job in your country. Have bachelors degree with background in engineering specialized in electrical. Holder of certificate in building wiring installation. Presently I trained as welder in shielded metal arc welding Smaw NC II, Plate and Pipe welding. As of now im working as construction worker specialized as steel fixer, electrician, and welder. Hope that you will consider me as one of the applicant. Thank you very much. God bless.

Jan 1, 2011 07:45 am
 Posted by  butch

good day i'm from the philippines i presently work in kuwait american base as HVAC Technician Sr.from 2005 to present my fenish contrac feb.2011 also have experience electrician, all type of welding work, car A/C,i certified EPA 609,608,HVAC/R R-410A,HVAC/R PM Tech.i willing to work in your country hope that you will consider me as one of the aplicant. thanks, rolly facun

Mar 23, 2011 12:34 pm
 Posted by  johnweld007

Dear Mr. Watts,

I owned welding training and testing institution in Manila, Philippines I am interested work with to support your projects
in your country if you need filipino welders we have large data base for welder in my country i am willing to personally visit you
in your place if necessary.



John McGregor Marineweld Training Center
Tel: +632-589-85-17

Mar 23, 2011 12:36 pm
 Posted by  johnweld007

About Us
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Was Established on August 28, 2005 Pandacan, Manila Philippines
to provide Maritime Welding Skill Certification both Filipino and Foreign
seafarers serving on board sea going vessel worldwide this institutions
founded by Filipino Marine Welder and joint partnership with American national serving the Ret. Military as Navy Welder.

JMGMTC a company affiliated AWS American Welding Society USA
who controlled and maintained quality standard of welding worldwide
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Tesda NC 11 standard applies their standards from aws base the accordance of AMERICAN WELDING SOCIETY AWS D1.1

International Links:

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This has been flagged
Feb 4, 2012 03:32 pm
 Posted by  bonie

mam/sir.. im an building electrician in the philippines and other countries.and i worked also in us base in afghanistan.if you can give me a chance i would like to worked again in us base,,,thank yuo and god bless

Jul 5, 2013 04:00 pm
 Posted by  DENNIS

To Whom It May Concern;

I am writing for the possibility of filling for any vacant position that I may apply for, in your company at this time or in the near future base on my qualities and experience preferably in the field construction and related job. I am an experienced Electrician and Engineer by professional who is skilled in electrical construction, electrical controls,apparatus,and electrical system designs of buildings and out-door/ in-door construction.Worked in GUAM construction b4.

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