Friday, August 19, 2011


Honolulu, Hawaii
By-Rodney Jetton

Stan and I drove up to St. Louis Monday evening because we had to catch a 6:00am flight to Hawaii.  I stayed up way to late working on a few letters and all too soon the 3:30 alarm went off and we were getting ready to head out on our trip to recon Guam and see if SSE should open up a branch office there.

You’re probably wondering why we are thinking about opening an office in Guam.  The short answer is because the Department of Defense (DOD) is moving the Marine base in Okinawa, Japan to Guam.  They have estimated it will cost about $14 billion to build the new base there.  The Japanese also want us to leave Guam and have pledged $6 billion to help pay for the move.  The move means there will be a lot of construction on Guam, but that doesn’t explain why a small civil engineering company from Missouri would consider moving there.

Here is the rest of the story.  Our work in New Orleans has been tremendously successful.  Stan went there, met with the local contractors, and quickly had a USACE validated construction testing lab operational.  In the beginning, most of the big firms would not hire SSE.  They had never worked with us before and they were afraid to trust something as important as testing to a small firm from Missouri. 

After several months CKY hired us for a little testing job and soon after that, our workload exploded.  Southern Services, Tetra Tech, Grillot Construction, Archer Western Contractors-The Walsh Group, WRCompass, The Shaw Group, Volkert, Odebrecht, and Integrated Pro Services were just a few of the major contractors who started requesting our services on their projects.  

The big contractors were not the only ones noticing the dependable testing services we were providing.  The USACE also took notice of our quality tests and accurate reports.  The Corps quickly awarded SSE a $5 million Blankest Purchase Agreement (BPA) to do Quality Assurance (QA) testing for them.  

Things were rapidly expanding for us in New Orleans.  Stan kept sending more of our Missouri employees down there to keep up with the workload and he also started looking for local qualified technicians who could join our team.  He had initially planned for 5 to 8 employees but within 18 months we had over 30 engineers and technicians providing both QC and QA tests in New Orleans.

During this time Tetra Tech was having some difficulty finding a surveyor to keep up with their timeline on one of their major projects.  They mentioned this to Stan and soon we had one of our Missouri crews helping them get the floodwalls and gates near the 17th Street canal laid out for construction.  Our company had done construction staking on hundreds of lane-miles of Missouri highways as well as the largest privately owned airport in America, which is in Branson Missouri.  

Even though much of the surveying in New Orleans involved complicated sector gates and floodwalls, our survey crews jumped in and worked with the project managers to keep the jobs on schedule.  Once the word got out about our surveyors, it wasn’t long until we had as many as four survey crews going full time for several different contractors on some of the largest floodwalls and levees ever built in America.

 You’re probably saying, Rod this is an interesting story but what does New Orleans have to do with Guam?”  The short answer is everything for us.  Most of the contractors we have been helping in New Orleans are major corporations with worldwide operations.  They design and build things all over the globe.  For example Engineering News Record (ENR) ranked Kiewit as the 3rd largest contractor in America, The Shaw Group is #7, and The Walsh Group is #12.  They also ranked Tetra Tech as the 5th largest environmental engineering firm, AWC is # 20, and WRCompass is #49.   

Many of these companies are taking a serious look at going to Guam and a few of them are already there.  They started asking Stan to consider going to Guam.  So, we are studying the feasibility of setting up a testing lab to support the work to build a Marine Corps base on Guam.  

That’s why we woke up at 3:30 Tuesday morning to catch a plane to Hawaii.  We needed to stop in Hawaii because many of the contractors in Guam have their pacific headquarters in Hawaii and the Navy is headquartered here as well.  I’ll write more about our Hawaii meetings in my next post.  
Stan arriving at the Honolulu airport

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