CEEPCO Contracting LLC
- Written by: Molly Shaw
- Produced by: Victor Martins
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
CEEPCO Contracting LLC (CEEPCO) was founded in 2003 by Harold R. Charles, who remains president and principal in charge of all aspects of the organization. Under his leadership, CEEPCO has grown steadily in size and scope over the years to become the industry leader it is today.
Charles earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of the District of Columbia in 1986 and his master’s degree in environmental management from the University of Maryland in 1994. Furthermore, Charles holds the following titles: registered professional engineer and a general contractor’s license in D.C., Maryland, Virginia and Florida, as well as certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and LEED AP.
Charles also served as a civil engineer and environmental coordinator for the D.C. Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base from 1987 to 1994. Additionally, Charles served as an environmental protection specialist for the U.S. Army at the Pentagon from 1994 to 1995. Furthermore, he served as a civil/environmental engineer for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from 1995 to 1998 and with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1998 to 2006.
With a strong governmental background, Charles began to grow his experience into a multimillion-dollar consulting firm offering architectural services, engineering, environmental assessment and construction management. Today, CEEPCO’s diverse clientele includes the General Services Administration (GSA), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and EPA, among many other federal government agencies.
Making moves to Haiti
Since 2009, CEEPCO has been tapping into viable investment opportunity in Haiti, helping to rebuild the island nation’s economy and grow his multifaceted company in the process.
“CEEPCO started very small but things have really taken off since 2009,” he reveals. It was in 2009 that the Haitian-American business owner secured his first engineering contract in Haiti before the 2010 earthquake that devastated the island. “There is untapped investment opportunity in Haiti for entrepreneurs and small-business owners,” adds Charles.
Years after the earthquake destruction, Haiti is still trying to create jobs, reduce inequality and attract more business into the economy. As the small country looks to put itself on the global economic map, Charles says there is a very real opportunity for American companies to prosper and make a difference at the same time. “Haiti’s proximity to the U.S. and Mexico is a significant asset and U.S. trade preferences are huge incentives for prospective investors,” he notes.
However, the World Bank in its annual report ranked Haiti No. 177 out of 184 based on the ease of doing business on the island and Haiti is still the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. But the good news is Haiti’s economy grew 4 percent faster than the U.S. economy in 2013. Since the natural disaster, Haitian exports to the U.S. have increased from $513 million in 2009 to $730 million in 2012 and inflation has dropped from nearly 8 percent to 4.5 percent.
Throughout the country, roads are being built and improved, new hospitals, schools and government buildings are taking shape and agribusiness is growing. The U.S. government is backing many of these projects. As a result contractors and investors are making moves to Haiti, but CEEPCO was there long before numerous other companies.
“I didn’t try to take advantage of a bad situation,” says Charles. “I was already there.” CEEPCO continues to play a pivotal role in reconstruction efforts.
Improving the economic outlook
Through its reconstruction projects, CEEPCO has helped to create more than 3,000 jobs in the last two years, training and employing local Haitians. The company maximizes the use of all forms of local subcontractors, including engineers and construction managers. “98 percent of subcontractors and consultants we hire are Haitians living in the country or abroad,” reveals Charles. “We purchase as many local materials as we can, as well, to further stimulate economic growth.”
CEEPCO recently completed construction of 750 single-family homes in the Caracol Region, supporting U.S. funded permanent shelter program. “This is the country’s largest housing community built since the earthquake,” reveals Charles.
Charles goes on to explain that each residential unit includes a kitchen, bathroom, bedroom and access to electricity 24 hours a day. “Haiti’s electrical grid often struggles to meet the power demand,” he continues. “The development also includes a school and recreation areas for soccer and basketball. Our mission is to be a leader in innovative infrastructure and to have a positive social impact on Haiti that advances the local economy.”
As a Haitian-American, Charles finds purpose in giving back to the country where he grew up until he was 16 years old. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including the Digicel’s 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year for the construction sector in Haiti and the 2013 Maryland Excellence Award by the Small Business Institute for Excellence in Commerce.
Enhancing the company’s esteemed reputation, Charles was recently named the Small Business Person of the Year for Maryland by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Even among great success and the multitude of awards, Charles continues to push CEEPCO Contracting LLC to build not for recognition, but for meaningful purpose.
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