Editor’s note: William D. Beery is vice president and general manager for Tutujan Hill Group Ltd. Beery began his career as an officer for the Civil Engineer Corps with the U.S. Navy Seabees in 1968. He has more than 55 years of professional experience in the construction industry and has worked on numerous projects for Naval Facilities Engineering Command and the private sector. In addition to his role at THG, Beery owns Construction Management Services, a professional project management company he started in 1994.
He previously worked as general manager at Watts Constructors from 2005 to 2008 and at JA Jones Management Services from 1998 to 2005. In the course of his 20 years in management, Beery has managed approximately $387 million in projects.
Beery is a National Fellow of NSPE and past president of the Guam Society of Professional Engineers. He also teaches a project management course at the Guam Contractors Association Trades Academy, where he serves as chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Beery was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and received his bachelor’s in civil engineering from Iowa State University. He is also a former Guam Business Magazine Executive of the Year nominee.
Q: You’ve been in construction for over 55 years. You started out as a laborer and equipment operator in Iowa and moved up the pipeline from there. What has kept your interest all these years?
A: Every project is different and has new and different people involved, so it’s never boring. And of course, I always enjoy the finished project.
Q: Let’s talk shop. As vice president and general manager of Tutujan Hill Group, what’s an interesting and/or significant project you’ve worked on recently? And why?
A: Tutujan Hill Group is presently refurbishing and altering the old Citibank building in East Hagatna. Not a really huge project but challenging because of the original construction and design (1970s) being unusual. Curved roof, circular building, old style lath and plaster infills, and converting banking functional spaces to multi-use commercial space, etc.
Q: You’ve been an instructor at the Guam Trades Academy for almost 15 years now. What first motivated you to teach and what keeps you going?
A: I’ve slowed down now, and not been teaching lately. (Each class runs about six months and two nights a week.) But I’ve always enjoyed it. My father was a teacher, and I always wanted to try. The curriculum textbooks at GCATA are great and were very relevant to my past experiences, so it wasn’t overly difficult to try and become a teacher part-time.
Q: The Trades Academy will have a new home by the end of the year. What can you share about the new space and what changes or additions professionals can expect?
A: A one-stop training center for all of the construction trades we hope. GCA, our brother organization and sponsor, will also be moving with us. The new facility will have almost 30,000 square feet of offices, classrooms and shops. We feel training is such an important facet in the growth construction economy we have blossoming now, and our goal is to be a major support for this needed training.
Q: You have a long view of the construction industry and labor force on Guam. What are some of the lessons you or the industry have learned over the last decade?
A: Guam went for two to three years without any H-2B laborers on island, and the construction industry still performed well with our local workforce. Please note we now have approximately 5,500 locals in the construction industry compared to 2,000 plus 10 years ago. However, with the new DOD work being generated, and outside the fence, work backlogs growing, 5,500 workers are not enough, so we really need more H-2B labor support for sure.
The construction industry needs to collaborate with designers to ensure most efficient use of labor resources and innovative delivery systems to help mitigate labor shortfalls over the next decade plus.
Q: Now, looking ahead, what are the newer opportunities you see coming down the pike you believe professionals, both new to the industry and well established, should be keeping an eye out for, both related to and not related to the buildup?
A: Basically what I said previously. The designers and the constructors need to work together to formulate best delivery systems and products for the future. With the internet as an information resource now, doing construction on Guam has become less and less like building on a remote planet. So, our industry is ripe for new ideas and a new generation of “constructors.”
Q: As both a seasoned construction professional and teacher, what are some important skills you believe a person needs to possess to be a successful project manager in the business?
A: In Guam, learn the three most important words in our business and be willing to say them: I don’t know. Remember speaking English doesn’t mean that the individuals comprehend English. Try and become a great “listener” to what everyone is saying around you.
Q: If you had to give one piece of advice to a professional entering construction industry today on Guam, what would it be?
A: Be prepared to be seriously challenged on knowing the best means and methods to achieve specific scopes of work within the contract designs/drawings. Realize that designing puts the ideas on paper, but that the real trick then is to make the design come to life in the field, which requires a lot of collaboration between the designers and the constructors.
Q: Name one thing the business community may not know about you.
A: I played the tuba in my school band in Iowa. mbj