Concourse gives county, airport contractor cause to celebrate
By Dan Dolan
Success has been hard to come by with Miami International Airport's $1 billion South Terminal project, dogged by delays and fiscal disasters.
But Miami-Dade County officials and construction executives say the opening last week of the terminal's new Concourse H, which came in on budget, is a shining example of what can happen when government and business work as they should.
Credit for the success belongs to small local companies, many of them minority-owned, that worked hard to get the $10 million job completed, say county aviation staffers and executives at general contractor Parsons-Odebrecht Joint Venture.
However, the small companies wouldn't have landed the job if Parsons-Odebrecht and government officials hadn't helped slash red tape and jump-started construction on the concourse, which will be used as a domestic and international gateway by Delta Airlines and US Airways.
"This is a real milestone project," said aviation deputy director John Cosper. "We set it up so small local businesses could participate in some of the work that's going on at the airport. POJV mentored the contractors and supervised their work. They've done a beautiful job within budget."
Parsons-Odebrecht executive Thomas Wallace said several county officials and Commissioner Dorrin Rolle helped move the Concourse H project to the front burner, pushing up the construction schedule by a couple of years. The county agreed to set aside all work on the concourse for small businesses, he said.
"The idea was to get money flowing into the local economy," said Gilberto Neves, CEO of Odebrecht Construction who conceived the Concourse H small-business plan when he was South Terminal project manager in 2001. "We divided the project into 30 different steps so we could get as many local companies involved as possible. We do not believe we can grow without allowing the community at large to grow with us."
Small contractors who participated in concourse construction say the project has paid big dividends.
"This program meant a lot to our business," said Eric Sweet, president of Liberty City painting contractor Jasper Enterprises. "We got a $66,000 contract in 2003 that kept our key people working and avoided layoffs. The program gave us a lot of buzz and experience. It helped build our business."
Mr. Sweet said his company had about 10 fulltime employees when it began work on Concourse H. Now, he said, Jasper has almost doubled in size — and landed a $1.7 million contract to paint and epoxy floors at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, another Odebrecht project. He says his company wouldn't have grown without the boost it got from the airport work.
Carlos Pajon, head of Tasco Plumbing and Mechanical Corp. in Hialeah, said the airport project played a big role in his company's expansion. Before Tasco landed its $225,000 concourse deal, Mr. Pajon said, his firm had 50 people on the payroll.
"Now, we're 160 people strong," Mr. Pajon said. "Just the fact that we were able to work at the airport, gain exposure and put it on our resume has helped us grow. It was a great opportunity."
Although her company hasn't added employees since it won a $105,000 job for ceramic-tile installation in concourse restrooms, Presidential Builders CEO Chandra Wilson said the airport job "was a very positive experience" that led to other work at Miami International.
"POJV really helped us and other small businesses," Ms. Wilson said. "It was a great partnership."