As Hawaii’s economy falters, construction is a rare bright spot

Updated: Mar. 25, 2020 at 6:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - While so much of Hawaii’s economy is grinding to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic, Hawaii’s construction industry is ramping up.

Typically, the construction industry is the state’s sixth largest employer. But because it’s deemed an essential service, it’s one of the few sectors that’s adding jobs.

“When you look at it, construction is the only game in town right now," said Nathaniel Kinney, executive director of the Hawaii Construction Alliance.

"We need to make sure there is a significant pipeline of public works projects.”

That includes the $9 billion rail system.

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation said it plans to add construction jobs because it can work faster in the downtown and Kalihi neighborhoods where there are fewer cars on the road due to the statewide stay-in-place order.

The rail project and its contractors currently employ about 1,000 construction workers.

“Here we are in a crisis situation with the coronavirus and I think that a project like the rail project ... really work well in terms of keeping the economy going,” said Andrew Robbins, HART’s CEO.

Another massive project: The city’s $400 million upgrade of its Honouliuli Wastewater Plant is in the second year of a five-year expansion plan that has created about 200 construction jobs.

Besides rail and infrastructure work, building industry officials say there’s hundreds of millions of dollars in additional shovel-ready school repairs, affordable housing projects and hospital renovations.

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