All in the Ohana
Sandwich Isles Communications Inc. is starting a family of companies.
When Sandwich Isles Communications completes its fiber-optic cables throughout Hawaii, a number of local companies will have already enjoyed benefits as a result of the high-speed network.
Summit Communications, which was incorporated in 1996, went fully operational the following year, providing telecom solutions for multi-tenant buildings. In March 1998, with just 15 employees, Summit entered into a long-term service contract with Sandwich Isles Communications, dedicating roughly one-third of its staff to the project. According to Summit General Manager Chad Johnston, the contract is worth at least $5 million. It is a five-year project with an option to extend.
“We get about $100,000 a month,” says Johnston, “So they are a big portion of our revenues.” Last fiscal year, Summit reported revenues of about $1.9 million and is looking at a 40 percent increase this year, with sales expected to reach $3.2 million.
Johnston says working with Sandwich Isles has allowed Summit to expand by about 15 to 18 employees. A few, like Johnston, are expatriates. “In the near future our company may increase to 50 percent of what we otherwise would’ve been, because of this network,” he says. “I think Sandwich Isles wants to provide opportunities for our population here.”
Sandwich Isle’s Gil Tam, vice president for administration and community affairs, says that whenever possible they contract and support local businesses. Ohana Telcomm/Construction Inc. was incorporated in February 1999, after being approached by Sandwich Isles five years ago to do construction and material management for the project, which hadn’t even come on-line yet. “The Sandwich Isles project was actually one of Ohana’s missions or charters,” says Randy Funn, president for Ohana. Sandwich Isle’s contracts with Ohana range from $100,000 to $5 million, and as of February, Ohana had completed seven projects. As a result, Ohana earned 2000 revenues of $5 million and hired at least 50 employees statewide. “We’ve hired about six or seven expatriates, over 50 percent of our staff is part-Hawaiian, and we even have three employees that are actually moving onto these Hawaiian Homestead Lands as well,” says Funn. Although Sandwich Isles doesn’t require contractors to meet ethnic or racial guidelines, a majority of the companies that get contracts do make efforts to employ native and part-Hawaiians. “It’s a consistent philosophy,” Summit’s Johnston says. “Not to the point of reverse discrimination, but just to provide opportunities for our fellow Hawaiians.”
Alden Kealoha, owner of Maui-based Kealoha Construction, says that nearly all of his dozen or so employees are either native or part-Hawaiian. Kealoha Construction signed two contracts, valued at $166,000 and $138,000 respectively, to construct equipment buildings for Sandwich Isles on Maui this year. Revenues from these contracts will contribute to Kealoha Construction’s anticipated $3 million in annual sales.
All in all, the Sandwich Isles project has resulted in the creation of roughly 500 jobs statewide, the majority of which are temporary construction and contractor positions. But according to Tam, Sandwich Isles’ ability to sustain employment remains one of its longer-term goals: “Right now we’re sustaining about 100 jobs, and that’s before we even launched the network.”