Building Relationships

Kiewit Pacific thinks locally and acts globally.

January, 2002

When do you become a local? You would think that being in the islands for 20 years and being responsible for building some of the state’s most familiar structures would qualify. But some reputations are hard to shake. Just ask John Bley.

“After two decades of doing business in Hawaii, we are still considered a ‘mainland’ company by many,” says Bley, area manager for Kiewit Pacific Co. “Seventy percent of our salaried employees were born and raised in Hawaii. Another 20 percent are long-time residents of the islands. And a lot of our employees are stock holders of the company. But people here don’t know that.”

Late last year, Bley established a business development office to spread the news about Kiewit Pacific. Local boy Kyle Pang heads the office. He’s joined by Bley and operations manager Brian Midyett, who have been pounding the pavement. The trio has been meeting and greeting people throughout the industry and reacquainting them with Kiewit’s capabilities and accomplishments in the past. According to Bley, getting recognition for the company’s growing local roots wasn’t the primary motivation for forming the office. Rather, it was to correct one very significant misconception: Kiewit only builds roads.

“In the civil and heavy construction business everyone knows Kiewit Pacific,” says Pang. “However, when we talk to architects, they aren’t familiar with our building work.

But Kiewit is very well known across the country for the things it builds, roads and otherwise. With district offices throughout the United States and Canada, the construction group boasted revenues of $4.0 billion in 1999, with its building contractor group bringing in $500 million. In Hawaii, Kiewit Pacific Co. had gross sales of $66.5 million in 2000 and $ 74 million in 1999. One of its notable local building projects was the $50 million renovation of the Kahala Mandarin Oriental Hotel, completed in 1996. Another is the Honolulu International Airport’s Inter-island Terminal Building, completed in 1994 with a price tag of $135 million.

Kiewit’s Pacific’s business development office is the only one of its kind on the district level because Hawaii is in a very unique position in construction group. While its other area offices cover thousands of miles of territory, the islands are separated by thousands of miles of ocean. It is a place where inevitably someone knows someone, who knows someone.

“Everything in Hawaii is about building relationships, building trust with people,” says Pang. “Many of the people who we deal with like to work with people from Hawaii, people who live and work here.”

According to Denny Watts, President of Dick Pacific, Kiewit’s public outreach is essential to doing business in construction in Hawaii today. Customers are demanding more from their contractors, while the number of projects have shrunk.

“Contractors now have to be much, much more involved. We have to be more upstream in the process to compete,” Watts says. “We want to be a part of our customer’s planning for the life cycle of their building.”

Watts says that this shift in doing business started several years ago as the military and federal government became more budget conscious and started implementing creative ways to get contractors to deliver their product. Because of the high proportion of federal dollars are spent in the state, the change has had a trickle down throughout the industry.

But for Bley and Kiewit Pacific, the more things change, the more things stay the same. The construction business is still about doing good work on time and on budget. “Yes, we have mainland ties but that is an advantage, too,” says Bley. “ We have a wealth of experience in construction that’s not performed often in Hawaii. There are excellent opportunities in the Islands, and we intend to be here a long, long time.”

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