Canadian construction company has big plans for Haiti

  • Posted by Marina Vatav
  • September 17, 2012 4:31 PM EDT

It's been over two years since the devastating earthquake. As Haiti struggles to rebuild, a number of companies are seizing the opportunities that the country presents.

Canada based and well-known construction and engineering companies Williams Engineering and Supreme Group joined forces to bring steel construction solutions to the Haitian market. Together, they formed the WE-Supreme Group.

The Group's representatives first came to Haiti right after the earthquake, knowing that the country will need construction solutions. In the two years since the earthquake, they have built their vision and see Haiti as an interesting market for them, as well as a gateway to the international markets.

Now they offer architectural and engineering services, design built solutions, as well as construction services in Haiti. However, their bigger plan is to open a steel fabrication facility in Haiti that will produce construction materials necessary to construct a diverse range of new buildings. They plan to employ over 200 Haitians and train them in fabrication and installation of steel buildings.

The long-term vision of the Group is to fabricate steel in Haiti and to export it to other Caribbean countries.

"For us, we think that for the next 10 to 15 years, Haiti is a place with tremendous opportunities in terms of the construction industry and for the steel products that we offer," says Thor Burnham, Business Development Manager.

Developing the Haitian market

We-Supreme sees construction opportunities within the government sector in replacing and reconstructing government buildings, as well as NGO facilities, bridges, commercial and industrial projects. They also see potential in the Haitian housing sector.

"Now in Haiti all the steel is imported. If you want to build a ten-story building of steel, you would have to purchase the steel outside of the country, design the construction, fabricate the pieces of steel and import it into Haiti, assemble and install. What we want to do is to import the steel and be able to do the design and fabrication in Haiti, which is not currently the case," notes Thor Burnham.

However, We-Supreme understands that they first have to educate their potential clients about the advantages of steel constructions so that more people can accept steel buildings as a viable construction solution.

"We think that steel is the ideal material to use to reconstruct Haiti and to construct things for the first time, being that it matches all the criteria necessary to handle earthquakes and hurricanes," says Thor Burnham.

Challenging and interesting

Burnham admits that there is a learning curve for his company entering Haiti. Their challenges are related to studying the market, the time it takes to incorporate a business, as well as the deficiency in the infrastructure, particularly the state of roads.

"It's part of the consideration we have to make when we do business in Haiti. But we certainly hope that as the government moves forward, that improved infrastructure happens, and that they will continue investments in roads, electricity, etc., because it helps our business and makes it easier to do business in Haiti," shares Burnham.

The Supreme Group is the largest private steel fabricator and construction company in Canada. They have built airports, hospitals, hotels, large stadiums, etc. Their partner in Haiti, Williams Engineering, was fouded in the late 70s in Canada. The company provides consulting engineering services internationally.

"For us, Haiti is a challenging but very interesting entry point into the international marketplace outside of Canada,” says Thor Burnham.