GUAM – While Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and Jacobs Engineering Group led construction of a $56.1 million Bachelor Enlisted Quarters on Guam, a breakdown of the job speaks of teamwork on an island teeming with opportunities for subcontractors – and hints at future shortages of specialist labor.
“We really only brought a couple (subcontractors) with us from the States,” Brian Fischer, Hensel Phelps project manager, told GuamBuildupNews.com in an interview. “Everybody else we tried to get from the island. So we divvied it up to 40 or 50 different contractors. I had 13 different scopes of work.”
The Bachelor Enlisted Quarters, while not directly related to the transfer to Guam from Okinawa of at least 8,600 U.S. Marines and their family and support staff no earlier than 2016, illustrates how military contracts for the buildup can trickle down through the island economy, with individual projects benefiting dozens of contractors.
It also shows that the sheer amount of work to come available as the military spends more than $10 billion over the coming years for the buildup may exhaust the island’s supply of experienced subcontractors in specialties ranging from foundations to roofing.
With a small army of local contractors – plus the help of Stateside contractors like California’s Bergelectric Corp. on electrical installations and another long-time partner for mechanical work – the joint venture of Hensel Phelps and Jacobs Engineering managed to finish the facility three days ahead of schedule and with a spotless safety record.
Guam-based Rocky Mountain Precast, one of a limited number of pre-casters on Guam, was one of the first subcontractors involved in the construction of the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters – a 99,460 square-foot, energy-efficient, multi-story, 280-room facility meant to house as many as 420 sailors. The facility, featuring a geo-exchange well, photovoltaic field and a solar hot water field, was opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 20.
“We probably maxed out at about 150 people or so,” working on the project, Mr. Fischer said. “If you look at our electrician that we brought from the States, their lead guy is actually Chamorro. They couldn’t find electricians locally so they ended up bringing five in from the Philippines. We had to supplement twice throughout the job because they were falling behind. They had to bring in a couple of people from California for a month-and-a-half, then send them back and then realize you’re not quite there on the punch list, so get the people back, get on a plane tomorrow and get them here.”
Guam-based Amazon Construction, Inc. was brought on board for flooring, caulking, cleaning and general finishing work, while Hensel Phelps also recruited Whitaker Construction, a company that returned to Guam after a six-year absence, according to Mr. Fischer.
“Bob Whitaker and his son Ben have been in Oregon for a few years now – and they decided to come back,” Mr. Fischer said. “They still own property and homes and stuff like that, so they came back here. We helped them get a foothold back in Guam again.”
Hensel Phelps, which sits on the Small Business Committee of the Guam Contractors Association, then hired Hagatna-based Micronesian Builders for painting and finish because “they have really good craft and good quality,” Fischer said.
Guam-based Western Pacific Casework, Inc., joined the team of subcontractors to put together the cabinets, cases and corian for the quarters. Tamuning-based Ace Builders LLC worked with cement on the project while Barrigada’s Korando Corporation “did all of our earthwork and did very, very well for us,” Mr. Fischer said.
Mr. Fischer said he found that many of the subcontractors “don’t have the financial capability to buy all the material, so we’ve had to learn that.” The company resorted to CRW Trading Inc. of Guam to help with that supply, along with Dateline Exports, which supplies construction material on Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and other areas throughout Asia-Pacific.
While Hensel Phelps managed to recruit enough subcontractors to finish the Bachelor Enlisted Quarters with three days to spare, he warned that subcontractors on the island are likely to be swamped as the military buildup picks up pace in coming years.
“We look at Rocky Mountain Pre-Cast and it’s a big enough operation to handle one or two of these (BEQ’s) at the same time, but when the buildup gets cranking, how many other pre-casters are there on-island?” asked Mr. Fischer. “There aren’t any.”
“Since we’ve just had this one job, we haven’t really tapped how many painters are really there until we run out,” he said. “I don’t really know where the shortage is going to be.”
Image used in this article courtesy Renjith Krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net