With much talk about the island’s upcoming construction boom brought on by the relocation of up to 8 000 Marines to Guam from Okinawa in the coming years local contractors are apprehensive about increasing staff until more concrete details are available. Companies are choosing instead to focus on training current employees obtaining necessary equipment or proceeding as normal.
"There’s a lot of talk and speculation in the media right now " James A. Martinez executive director of the Guam Contractors’ Association said. "Everyone is just maintaining the status quo until more is heard. There’s not much hiring happening because nobody is just going to hire a large amount of people based solely on rumors of upcoming work " he said
Many of the local businesses echo the same sentiment when asked about preparations for the boom.
Thomas D. Perez president of Perez Brothers Construction; said "Right now we’re working on planning for the expansion by purchasing the equipment we need and cross training the 65 employees we have for the anticipated labor shortage." He said "What we want at the moment is more efficiency and not employees standing around waiting on work. Everyone’s waiting to hear what is next but it’s been very quiet."
While the large companies are in preparation as much as possible the smaller businesses are also doing what they can to ready themselves. Jessica M. Barrett owner of Barrett Plumbing employs about 20 workers.
"There’s a lot of excitement in the air you can really feel the anticipation " Barrett said. "We have steady work but I’ve been a little concerned because most of our buyers are local residents with new houses. We have plenty of applications pending and of course I’ve heard a lot but I’d like to wait awhile and see how it plays out."
With such a shortage in actual manpower expected some contractors are thinking of H2 workers as a potential resource. Agapitu Valencia owner of AMV Construction; would prefer to keep hiring on a local level but the problem posed is that most local workers are seeking employment with larger companies for more pay.
"I would certainly look into off-island workers if I had the contracts that called for it but right now I try to hire only local employees " Valencia said. "It’s less paperwork and less of a headache but the workers in the area are looking for jobs with the big construction companies."
Of the construction companies that do look to off-island employees they are finding it difficult to prepare with a lack of guidelines set for such an endeavor.
"Yes there is word of H2 workers being used for these jobs but no official rules or regulations have been made public. Again everyone is anxiously awaiting more information " Martinez said.
The announcements of the military buildup have created much anticipation among the construction community fuelled by the recent visit by B.J. Penn assistant secretary of the Navy and other military personnel for military buildup discussion. However most contractors aren’t making many changes. According to Louis C. DiMaria vice president of Micronesian Operations there’s no need to yet.
"These (military buildup) agreements have only just started let alone finished " DiMaria said. "We don’t know how much money will be spent B.J. Penn just announced that any real buildup is three to four years off and we have a new election in two years " DiMaria added. "There’s too much that can change right now. We have workers in Hawaii and on the mainland that we can call should we need it right now our projections are based on jobs won within the year and not much else." MBJ