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Big Isle construction ‘picking up’

Updated: 
January 8, 2014 - 9:45pm

The Big Island’s construction industry is back in business.

“Things are picking up for sure,” said Brian Ninomoto, president of the Hawaii Island Contractors Association. “It’s increasing and it seems to be growing in the right direction and that’s good for the Hawaii Island economy.”

The Hawaii County construction and extraction industry has an anticipated growth rate of 29.7 percent from 2010 to 2020, according to information provided by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations.

Occupations within that sector have an anticipated growth rate of 23.2 percent during that time period.

Several state-funded projects have attributed to the increase.

One of those projects includes the construction of a $55 million interisland cargo terminal facility in the Hilo Harbor that aims to separate commercial operations from tour operations.

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said the final phase of the project, the construction of a $37 million pier, is slated for 2015.

Related to the Hilo Harbor project is a plan to widen Kumau Street, and Sluyter said construction for that will start at the end of January.

DLIR spokesman Bill Kunstman anticipates the influx of construction jobs on the Big Island will positively affect the local economy, given that a majority of those jobs will go to Hawaii residents.

Kunstman said legislation requires that Hawaii residents make up 80 percent of the personnel for state-related construction projects. However, the legislation does not specify on which island the personnel must reside.

Projects are increasing in West Hawaii as well, according to information provided by DLIR.

In Kailua-Kona, there are 12 projects planned or currently underway at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority. The projects will generate approximately 500 jobs and nearly $5 million in tax revenue during the next two years.

Projects under construction include West Hawaii Explorations Academy’s $8.5 million new campus, Shrimp Improvement Systems’ $6 million new headquarters, NELHA’s $4.7 million deep seawater pipeline repair and Cyanotech’s new office building and extraction facilities, which total $4.5 million.

NELHA, which is part of the State Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, has seven projects under construction totaling $30 million and accounting for 319 jobs. Upcoming projects for 2014 include NELHA’s $9.7 million road construction project as well as $3.7 million for the creation of an alternative energy and biotechnology demonstration incubator and building renovation. These account for about 175 jobs.

Other projects include Makai Ocean Engineering’s $2.2 million ocean thermal energy conversion project, Shrimp Improvement Systems’ $3 million second phase build-out and NELHA’s $2.3 million surface seawater project.

The first phase of a new campus in the University of Hawaii system, Hawaii Community College at Palamanui, began in May.

Occupational projections are based on data collected by DLIR from employers through the Occupational Employment Statistics survey, which is online at hiwi.org.

Email Megan Moseley at mmoseley@hawaiitribune-herald.com.