Hawaii News Now – Tower Cranes and Construction Boom

http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/28655466/uh-economists-predict-construction-activity-will-intensify

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) –Towering cranes are helping to transform Honolulu’s skyline. A new report, however, shows that construction gains fell short of expectations last year. Activity is forecast to ramp up a bit in 2015, according to the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO).
Sterling Naki climbs into his office early each morning. He spends up to 12 hours a day in a small cab moving heavy loads at Ala Moana Center. He operates one of seven tower cranes working on the mall’s Ewa wing expansion.

“You’re responsible for everybody on the ground. Whatever you’re picking, you’re responsible for the load, so (it’s) kind of stressful,” explained Naki.

There are 22 tower cranes on Oahu, according to the union for operators. More are expected to go up in the months ahead.

“The good part about it is when I finish a project and I get to drive by it and just be in awe looking at the project, especially if it’s big projects,” said crane operator Clayton DeCosta.

Construction activity is expected to ramp up this year, according to UHERO. Total spending is forecast to increase 9.4% to nearly $7.6 billion.

“It’s really more for sort of modest growth or moderate growth, fairly strong activity, but not nearly as strong as we had been expecting,” said UHERO executive director Carl Bonham.

Bonham said delays in rail construction and single-family home developments will also mean a later peak in the construction boom.

“The future progress on rail, we don’t know what the funding situation looks like. Two of the biggest housing projects are tied up in the courts. Hoopili and Koa Ridge are both waiting for decisions from the (Hawaii) Supreme Court,” said Bonham.

The report points out that the current expansion is quite different from the previous cycle that ended a decade ago.

“In the last cycle it was almost all single-family (homes), and it was predominantly on the neighbor islands. This cycle, it’s almost all high-rises and it’s all on Oahu,” Bonham said.

With tower crane operators now in high demand, many construction workers want training.

“On occasion during this past year, we’ve had difficulty supplying the tower crane operators just because the few that we have, have already been out on jobs,” said Angie Chinen of Operating Engineers, Local 3 JAC.

Bonham predicts that the growth in construction jobs will peak in the next three to four years.

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

 

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