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Construction industry expected to boom with buildup

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Perhaps no one is more anxious for the military buildup to start than the construction industry, as contractors have been waiting for years to bid on the billions of dollars worth of projects. But one local group is hoping the local workforce can cash in, as well.

As the saying goes, a billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, pretty soon you're talking about some real money. That's what companies were hoping for when the Marines relocation was first announced almost a decade ago, before it was abruptly put on hold.  "We've seen companies come and go. You know they made the business decision that we're going to put Guam on hold for now, there's really nothing going on right now, and they know pretty much packed up and left and went back to their other operations in the mainland, but now with the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and ultimately with the Record of Decision, it could be very well that these same companies would come back to Guam and set up shop once again," noted James Martinez, president of the Guam Contractors Association.

Martinez expects there will be plenty of work ahead, not just for construction firms, but all the other companies that provide ancillary services, products, and supplies. But he also wants to make sure work opportunities are maximized for local workers.  He says an estimated 7,000 jobs will be created, mostly in construction, and he sees a real need for more Guamanians to participate.  

"We're still going to use, probably utilize, the H2b Program and bring in some foreign workers, to do some of the jobs, but this is certainly an opportunity for local residents to really participate and probably start their careers with this particular buildup now that it's getting back on track," he said.

The GCA launched a Trades Academy nine years ago to help provide the needed worker certifications.  In recent years they've stepped up efforts to market the academy in the middle schools and high schools, to attract more locals to the construction trades, with Martinez saying, "Some kids aren't cut out for college, so what else can they do, they want to work with their hands. So this is another opportunity for them to venture into that career opportunity."

So the message is simple: if you're looking for a job, get yourself trained, and the job will look for you. "The construction industry here in Guam is cyclical in nature, sometimes we have our peaks and of course we have our valleys, but in the times where we have our valleys, we're in maintenance mode so we're still going to need those construction trades for some of the maintenance projects, including carpenters, iron workers, welders, electricians, HVAC technicians," said Martinez.

Martinez is cautious about predicting a new boom period, but can't help but wonder whether we're headed back to a similar time when Tumon hotel construction was peaking, adding, "Back in the day, we're talking about the 60s and the construction boom in the 70s where construction used to be a sexy occupation.  I don't know where we lost that sexiness.

"But we've always said: we're gonna bring sexy back."

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