Tom Jones on the construction industry

As the recession bites, the Journal speaks with Tom Jones International’s President Hunter Jones to hear this prolific construction company’s views on the industry in Cayman.

Can you give us an overview of your current projects?

Our first project, now near completion is the luxurious Beachcomber Residences. The Beachcomber is a 40 unit high end condo in prime location on Seven Mile Beach, constructed for renowned mega developer Brian Butler.

We are enjoying a continued working relationship with Butler Property Development by constructing their latest project, the South Bay Beach Club. The South Bay Beach Club is beside the Marriot Resort on the south end of Seven Mile Beach.

In 2008 Tom Jones International was honoured to have been awarded by the Cayman Islands Government the contract to build their new state of the art high school campuses. The Clifton Hunter High School (six buildings) in Frank Sound and the John Gray High School (seven buildings) in George Town. The school contracts amount to the largest ever awarded by the Cayman Islands Government.

Tom Jones International has also been chosen to build the Island Resort and Residences, a huge five star development in the District of East End. Construction is slated to commence later this year.

How are your designers mitigating ecological and environmental impacts?

We do not design. This is a question for architects, developers and engineers. As a general contractor we build as per the drawings and specifications given to us. We do take into consideration our environmental impact during construction. We attempt to mitigate any soil runoff or other impacts if at all possible.

Can you detail any specific green initiatives that you are employing in your construction methods?

TJI is open to any and all such initiatives as required by our project owners. TJI looks for ways to implement energy savings into its projects when asked and had been able to provide energy savings options to owners on past projects.

How is the current recession impacting these projects?

Although we haven’t been affected directly we have observed that many of our competitors and subcontractors are running out of work, and reducing their workforce. We have seen more projects which were to be up for tender being put on hold or cancelled altogether.

How is the recession impacting pending projects?

There have been a lot of projects cancelled, shelved and postponed due to the current economic climate. However, some developers have realised that there has never been a better time to build given the drop in the price of materials and commodities and for those developers who are able to secure financing the interest rates have never been so attractive. Additionally due to the worldwide downturn, the availability, expertise and experience of the labour market is something pending projects can capitalise on.

How do you envisage the health of Cayman’s construction industry in five years time?

Although no one has access to a crystal ball, the construction business is cyclical. We are experiencing a slowdown, however I believe there will be a full recovery within two years and we believe the future is bright for the local industry.

Anything else you may wish to add?

Construction is the third largest employer by industry on island, following the tourism and financial sectors. We would like to encourage young Caymanians to consider a career in construction. TJI has developed and implemented a school summer job programme, which is in its second year. This programme has allowed several young Caymanians to get a taste of what the industry has to offer. We have been well received with this programme and we believe allowing young people a view into future employment is a great way to assist in personal growth. Additionally the company is in the process of developing an apprenticeship programme, which will train motivated Caymanians in the industry and put more Caymanians to work in good paying jobs.

Bryce Rivers joined Tom Jones International last year upon completing his Bachelor of Science, with Majors in Architecture and Building Engineering. He is back working at John Gray High School (his former school) as a part of our company’s ongoing effort to recruit and train promising young Caymanians.

Bryce says: “Since beginning at Tom Jones International, I have learnt many valuable things regarding construction. I have learnt the importance of good coordination between general contractor, owner, architect and all other sub trades involved. I have also learnt the importance of keeping up good and timely correspondence with all involved in the construction project, also the importance of keeping these correspondences on record for all Grand Cayman employees to access as back-up references if need be. As well as the importance and need for good engineering calculations, measurement and layout procedures.”