- Written by: Camila Osorno
- Produced by: Michelle Glenn
- Estimated reading time: 5 mins
Odebrecht USA became the first Brazilian company to win a publicly bid project in the U.S. when it was tapped to oversee the construction of an extension to Miami’s Metro Mover, an elevated automatic people mover train system, in 1990. In the 22 years since the Miami-based North American construction subsidiary’s entrance into the U.S. market, Odebrecht USA has made its mark on the American landscape by completing a wide array of essential projects from California to the Carolinas.
Odebrecht USA is backed by its parent company, Odebrecht S.A., with 68 years of experience and a global workforce of roughly 175,000. However, it is Odebrecht USA’s deeply ingrained belief that building a safe, prosperous and sustainable community goes hand-in-hand with developing sustainable, sound business practices.
Odebrecht’s global network includes operating divisions in 28 countries and a host of specialties from construction and engineering – the company’s bread and butter – to real estate, oil and gas, chemical and petrochemicals. Over the course of 65 years and an international expansion and diversification, Odebrecht S.A. developed the Odebrecht Entrepreneurial Technology (TEO), which defines the core of every operating subsidiary. This corporate philosophy emphasizes the importance of both education and work as well as the fundamental principles of trust, partnership, self-development, client satisfaction, reinvesting results and decentralization.
The concept of decentralization is especially powerful, as it allows every subsidiary to function with a greater degree of autonomy. This ensures that every operating subsidiary can focus on and respond to the specific challenges of any given market. “The Odebrecht group [of companies] has a very large footprint, but we’re still a very independent organization,” asserts Gilberto Neves, president and CEO of Odebrecht USA.
Odebrecht USA recently established a second branch in Houston to complement its regional outposts in Louisiana. The company has also performed in California, North Carolina and South Carolina, while other subsidiaries of the Odebrecht Organization – such as Braskem America and FOZ – are also present in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Texas.
Building World-class Infrastructure
The Houston office was established two years prior to Odebrecht USA’s contract with the Harris County Toll Road Authority in 2011. Brian Perantoni, the Houston-area project executive for Odebrecht USA, moved to Houston with his family to begin the operation. “Part of our company’s philosophy is to become local wherever we go,” says Neves. “By living in Houston Brian developed partnerships that led to the contract acquisition.”
The contract with the Harris County Toll Road Authority was to expand a portion of Sam Houston Tollway. The project will widen a five-mile long stretch of the expressway that will double its capacity, adding three conventional toll lanes, three nonstop lanes for vehicles with toll transponders, as well as revitalized on- and off-ramps. The Sam Houston project is just one of many in Odebrecht USA’s endeavors. To date, Odebrecht USA has completed over 62 projects in the United States, work valued at $5 billion.
Odebrecht USA’s long-lasting partnership with its clients ultimately led to meaningful international opportunities. Longtime client American Airlines tapped Odebrecht USA to survey the devastation at its terminal in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, after the catastrophic earthquake in 2010 shuttered its commercial operations. Odebrecht USA had the terminal back in business in just three weeks, allowing much-needed supplies and assistance to enter the country. “Our relationship with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dates back at least 15 years,” says Neves. “It’s because of them that we went out to Iraq and Kuwait to help in the rebuilding efforts.”
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Odebrecht USA took a stand. The company partnered with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to complete work on several critical components of the $14 billion Greater New Orleans Hurricane and Storm Damage Risk Reduction System currently under way. Odebrecht USA is also working on the rehabilitation of two culverts along Herbert Hoover Dike, which surrounds Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.
Other highlights in Odebrecht USA’s portfolio include constructing the American Airlines Arena, home of the Miami Heat. The team also oversaw a major expansion to the Miami International Airport’s (MIA) North Terminal, one of the largest airport expansion projects the country has ever witnessed.
The $1.1 billion North Terminal expansion was a beast of a much larger kind. The expansion included the addition of four new SkyTrain stations, 50 gates, 119 self-service kiosks, 123 ticket counters, 1.8 miles of moving walkway and a state-of-the-art baggage handling system capable of handling 6,700 bags per hour.
The North Terminal Program wrapped up along with the Miami International Airport Metrorail Station – formerly known as Airport Link – in mid-2012. Odebrecht USA already had crews nearby beginning work on two critical infrastructural developments to connect the airport with the city’s transportation infrastructure at that time. The company constructed the MIA Mover, a dual-track people mover system linking the airport to the rental care center, as well as the Miami Intermodal Center. The MIA mover system was inaugurated in September 2011.
Additionally, Odebrecht USA previously built MIA’s South Terminal, and completed work on an all-new 113-meter tall air traffic control tower at the airport as well. The company also completed the addition of a new parking garage and new cargo terminals for companies such as FedEx and American Airlines.
A Future of Mutual Prosperity
Odebrecht USA has amassed a network of loyal subcontractors in its 22 years building across the U.S., but newcomers are always welcome and mentoring is a key part of Odebrecht’s long-term growth strategy. “We always have goals for small business participation despite contract requirements,” asserts Neves. “We are proud that we have established working relationships with more than 300 small businesses in the U.S. Some of them have been with us since our first days here; they are part of the Odebrecht family.”
The extra effort seems to be paving the way toward further growth, as Odebrecht USA has ranked for four consecutive years as one of the best Florida-based companies to work for, most recently ranking ninth. The recent rise of public-private partnerships stateside will further expand the company’s position in the U.S. marketplace for years to come. In the process Odebrecht USA will set the standard for sustainable development strategies and deliver critically important infrastructure projects that facilitate economic growth.
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