Design Partners Inc.
Design Partners Inc. (DPI) was founded in 1979. Ten years prior, Vernon Inoshita, president and CEO of DPI, graduated from the University of Southern California. “I had cousins who were architects,” he recounts. “After graduation I worked in Michigan with the firm that had designed the World trade Center.” Inoshita’s strong level of experience and expertise in the design aspect of large construction has boosted the growing company into a leading position within the regional market.
“We are the number three company in our field in Hawaii,” Inoshita continues. “We work in the public and private sectors. On the private end, we work on housing with multifamily projects and within developments. On the public end, we do quite a bit of work with the military. We have Japanese-speaking architects on our team, which has given us an advantage in securing military projects in Japan. We have offices in Oahu and Guam and we work with partners and clients on both sides of the Pacific.”
The company draws strength from strong and diverse design capabilities. DPI establishes a presence throughout the duration of a project from planning and feasibility studies through design and construction administration. In-house, DPI provides architectural design services and civil engineering and works with structural, mechanical and electrical subcontractors to complete projects. Therefore, Inoshita and his team have established longstanding relationships with a number of suppliers and other strategic partners.
“We certainly have a standard set of subcontractors,” Inoshita adds. “We generally act as the prime contractor. In order to control performance, it is important to us that our subs know what is expected of them. Manpower is a big investment for us, just like materials. In Hawaii, everything has to be shipped in, which makes operating costs higher. Gas prices have grown and we have to have reliability in our suppliers.”
Strong Project Portfolio
The company has been involved in a number of unique projects and initiatives over the years. Recently, the team worked with the military to relocate a number of Marine Corps troops from Okinawa. In Japan, DPI designed and managed the construction of three schools on military bases.
“Right now, we are working on three large high-rise buildings,” says Inoshita. “One of them is along a key station for the local rail system. They are building a huge residential high-rise over the station, which has become a major collaboration between the public and private sectors. That’s in Honolulu.”
However, Inoshita notes that his favorite projects are the smaller ones. “We are working currently on a high-tech design project on Maui,” he says. “This will be the first of its kind. We are incorporating major energy saving design elements with wind turbines and photovoltaic energy cells.”
Other unique recent projects for the company include facilities for the military, hospitality projects, as well as office buildings and schools. DPI’s clients from all sectors include well-known businesses and institutions in the area, including Maui Community College, Kobayashi Group and Brookfield Homes Hawaii.
Wheels Keep Turning
While the DPI team has been busy over the last few years, Inoshita and his team have faced some of the same challenges as other members of the construction industry throughout the recession. “The market controls the flow of business,” he explains. “Medical insurance is skyrocketing; the cost of labor has gone up, although rents are stable right now. The economy appears to be getting better, though. Interest rates have really boosted new construction. I think over the next few years we will remain steady and stable.”
To deal with a volatile market, Inoshita and his crew have maintained a strong focus on the most important components of the business. “Diversity has greatly benefited us,” he notes. “We are in both public and private markets, so we don’t have all of our eggs in one basket. Our customer service is great because we listen.” The collaborative efforts are paying off, as customers receive all that is needed, and DPI walks away with a happy client.
DPI continues to grow as a higher-mid level firm. The team has a number of projects coming down the pipeline, including contracts with the state government and multifamily developments. “We have a lot of major landholders in the area looking for mixed use development,” Inoshita adds. “We’re keeping an eye on the financial gauge. We want to continue to see the company grow and remain profitable. We have been helped quite a bit by Obama’s Pacific Rim Initiative.
In 2014 DPI will celebrate 35 years in business. Inoshita and his team have built the relationships and reputation in the industry to continue growth. As the business turns out more unique and complex projects, Design Partners Inc. will remain at the top of the industry in the South Pacific.
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