Kokea Construction & Consulting Inc.
Many may be surprised to know it’s not just tourism pulling Hawaii’s economy out of the recession in recent years. Despite a softening in the tourism industry during the first quarter of the year, labor market conditions, the growth of personal income and tax revenues and construction activity have put the island on a track of economic growth.
According to Hawaii’s Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT), the state’s economy is expected to continue positive growth – a projected 2.4 percent – for the remainder of 2014 and into 2015.
On the upswing
Kokea Construction & Consulting Inc. (Kokea), an Oahu-based firm, has seen the buildup firsthand. “Right now, there’s a lot going on in the construction market,” says Richard Hue, president of Kokea. “There are many multimillion dollar projects, but most our slightly outside of our scope of work.”
As a small, 10-person company, Kokea weathered the recession by holding tight to relationships and a diverse set of tenant and residential improvement projects. “We’re a smaller nonunion contractor doing tenant improvements, small commercial projects and residential repairs,” details Hue. “There are others of our size in the city but we tackle a diverse set of smaller jobs and do a good job marketing ourselves and reputation.”
“There was some luck involved,” he admits. “You land a project and hope that relationship continues so we relied on that but I enjoy a challenge and making it through.”
Based in Honolulu, Kokea has been serving the greater island metropolis since 1987. “Kokea was established 27 years ago by Glen Takeuchi,” tells Hue, who has now been with the company for a decade. “When Takeuchi passed away, I joined my company to form Kokea.”
Small workforce, big skill
With only a handful of nonunion workers, Kokea delivers expert finish carpentry and can even supervise a project as construction manager. “We only subcontract electrical, plumbing and other specialty trades,” adds Hue. “When we do sub something, we have a set network of go-to guys. Relationships are very important and they’re how we keep things moving forward.”
Amid a sea of large-scale projects, Kokea has managed to find jobs within its niche. “We just completed a small addition to the existing building at St. Anne’s Church and Learning Center,” details Hue.
Kokea has also touched the retail sector, completing a space for Big Island Abalone Corporation (BIAC), a producer of Kona Abalone, a premium stock of Ezo (Japanese Northern) abalone. The quality of Kona Abalone is highly acclaimed by chefs and top-end restaurants from Tokyo to Waikiki, Los Vegas to San Francisco and beyond. “The shellfish retail store started on the big island and is growing,” adds Hue.
A first for Oahu
But one of Kokea’s most significant projects to date from a construction management perspective is the University of Hawaii’s (UH) School of Medicine Cancer Research Center in KaKaako. Constructed on a 5.5-acre lot adjacent to UH’s school of medicine, the state-of-the-art research facility encompasses five stories and 360,000 square feet. The facility includes research laboratories, an outpatient clinic for cancer treatment ancillary services and physicians’ offices.
The UH Cancer Center is one of only 68 research organizations in the country designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Currently, the center is conducting more than 100 cancer research projects in four interdisciplinary programs. “We completed this major undertaking two years ago as construction managers and it’s one of our most significant projects in the company’s history,” adds Hue.
Hue, who says he doesn’t shy away from a challenge, says Kokea is looking for more of the “right size,” projects right now as the construction market in Oahu rebounds. “Some of our survival was luck, most of it was hard work,” he assures. “There aren’t too many small projects out there for us to tackle right now so we’re just holding steady.”
A steady stream of small projects, coupled with several serious endeavors has been the strategy for Kokea Construction & Consulting Inc. as the company rounds out nearly 30 years serving Oahu.
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