Hawai‘i is our home

Hawaii is Our Home

Vital Connectivity (Part 1 of 2): Transporting Essential Construction Workers Between our Islands

If you look at the sky and happen to see one of the few Neighbor Island flights we still operate, chances are a member of Hawai‘i’s construction industry is onboard.

If you look at the sky and happen to see one of the few Neighbor Island flights we still operate, chances are a member of Hawai‘i’s construction industry is onboard.

Our Neighbor Island network, even at significantly reduced flight frequencies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, remains a key transportation link for Hawai‘i’s essential workforce – from construction crews to stevedores, utility technicians and medical professionals, among others – who board our aircraft daily to travel across our archipelago to provide vital services to local communities while generating important economic activity.  

In this two-part blog series, we’re recognizing the grit of our state’s construction workers and healthcare heroes.

Maryl Group Construction, Inc., Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company and Commercial Roofing Inc. are among construction organizations with offices and job sites statewide that have relied on our airline for at least a decade. Team members travel regularly between islands to build affordable housing, maintain and upgrade critical infrastructure, and work on school buildings and senior living complexes.

“These people continue to put on their hard hats and swing their hammers to ensure that Hawai‘i’s infrastructure is still taken care of when most of the state is shut down,” said Jill Tokunaga, senior director of North America sales and community relations at Hawaiian Airlines. “We are proud partners with several construction businesses that rely on a healthy Neighbor Island network to get their jobs done.”

Photo credit: Maryl Group Construction, Inc.

Workers at a Maryl Group Construction, Inc. residential job in Kona, maintaining social distancing protocols.

Maryl Group Construction, Inc. workers fly weekly between O‘ahu and the Neighbor Islands to work on large-scale projects such as affordable and market-rate housing communities. One development on Maui will include a new community center, fitness facility, playground, dog park, picnic area and garden. Other projects include shopping centers and retail spaces.

Timothy Choi, who oversees marketing and client relations at Maryl Group Construction, Inc., said its more than 300 workers are focused on maintaining productivity while prioritizing each other’s health and safety. “We purchased 600-plus cloth face masks from several home-based businesses to support the local community and ensure our workers are safe while traveling and working,” he said.

Photo credit: Maryl Group Construction, Inc.

Choi, pictured front, takes a selfie with his colleagues while behind the scenes of a retail project in Kona.

Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company, the largest general contractor in the state, is also building new housing and working on community-based projects across the islands, such as a new auditorium at a public high school. Between 20 to 30 workers are traveling on any given week, in addition to managers who fly frequently to oversee projects, said Robert Tomas, senior project manager at Hawaiian Dredging.

“The construction industry in Hawai‘i continues to carry on as an essential business. With this we have a responsibility to support Hawaii’s economy,” Tomas said. “We continue to take necessary steps to protect our personnel as well as our owners, subcontractors and vendors who have to travel and come onto our project sites.”

Photo credit: Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company

In response to the pandemic, Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company holds all daily briefings outside and requires everyone to practice social distancing.

Commercial Roofing Inc. works with clients of all sizes – from state buildings to nursing homes – to provide emergency and longer-term roofing services. The company has been busy responding to emergency water intrusion and mitigation calls during Hawai‘i’s rainy spring season and preparing for a large-scale roofing project for public schools statewide.

“Full-blown, our employees are making close to 180-200 Neighbor Island trips per month. We have crews moving at least once a day working on projects that require a highly specialized team like ours,” said Guy Akasaki, president and CEO of Commercial Roofing Inc.

“Our work during COVID-19 keeps critical facilities watertight and we’re grateful that we can support our local community during an uncertain time for the economy,” added Dana Akasaki, corporate marketing director at Commercial Roofing Inc.

“We can’t paddle there fast enough, so you guys get us there fast enough,” Guy Akasaki joked.

Photo credit: Commercial Roofing Inc.

A sanitation station and social distancing marker at one of Commercial Roofing Inc's job sites.

In addition to existing safety protocols, each company has established expanded policies to ensure traveling staff, and the communities they’re working in, remain protected. Job sites feature safety stations with ample hand soap, water and hand sanitizer. Other protocols include social distancing, limiting the number of workers on each site, heightened cleaning measures, regular check-ins with employees, and increased use of personal protective equipment. 

Photo credit: Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company

Hawaiian Dredging workers following social distancing measures on the job.

As the pandemic evolves, construction partners are finding new ways to support their workers while also learning from others in the industry.

“In a time like this, we rally together. We unite, we talk to each other and ask each other for advice and ideas,” Guy Akasaki said. “We’ve been through SARS and swine flu, and we know that Hawai‘i can still rise up. Times like these bring out the best in all of us. “

Top thumbnail photo credit: Maryl Group Construction, Inc.

Story By Marissa Villegas,
External Communications

May 12, 2020