The construction industry has seen an impressive growth in the last few years. Please give us your output on the construction market in A&B and how can it be improved?
The construction industry in Antigua and Barbuda is fairly stable. What is needed is more training for the individuals which are employed in the industry, there is a lack of skilled workers. The people of Antigua are not fully qualified and need more work exposure, in turn we employ individuals from other countries within the Caribbean or outside of it depending on the scale of the project. A large number of Mexicans are currently working on the Barbuda project. The demand is high and quite a high number of projects are coming into stream, with the scarcity of labour, we will have an influx of non-nationals coming in causing a scarcity of houses. With regards to our project in Barbuda, this scarcity could be a big problem for us as this project will last 12-15 years and will employ a few thousand workers, Barbuda has a population of only 1800 which means we will have to import workforce. Most Barbudans are into fishing and that too will develop, communication and coordination is key between the government, the counsel and the various stakeholders.
There are many hotel projects coming into Antigua such as the Rosewood at Half Moon Bay, the Waldorf Astoria from the Hilton Brand and the Best Western as well as Real Estate Development with Windward Estate, Tamarind Hills and many more. With all that work coming in, the future of the industry is looking bright.
Roberts Construction & Engineering is reportedly the largest construction company in Antigua and Barbuda. What has been the key to the success of the firm? What are your main priorities and objectives for 2020?
We are not the largest but offer the widest range of services, we are not only into construction but also into ready mixed concretes and other similar industries. Over the years, we have improved our quality of work, we have built large facilities at Jumby Bay, Half Moon Bay, Mill Reef and at the capital Saint John’s. Those include banks, churches, schools and commercial buildings. We also built the first stadium of the island and many historical landmarks.
For 2020, we are looking at reorganizing the business, I am hoping to reduce my involvement to some extent. We have in-house people but want to recruit some more.
You are involved in many construction projects. What services does your company offer?
We supply concrete to all construction companies. We are also involved with the Barbuda Ocean Club, which is a cooperation between the Peace Love and Happiness Partnership and Discovery Land Company and are setting up a concrete plant in Barbuda while assisting with operations.
You have recently been awarded the contracts for the Hanna Thomas Hospital and the construction of 150 homes through a financing agreement with the European Union (EU) in Barbuda. What current and future projects are you working on?
We have just started the contract for Hanna Thomas Hospital while the construction of 150 homes is still under discussion.
You are committed to keeping pace with the ever-changing needs of your customers and anticipating their needs for the future. Who are your main clients?
We have many local and foreign clients, the foreign market has been particularly good for us, we partner with a lot of international companies. We also work with the biggest construction company in Japan.
You are constantly innovating and transforming the industry. How important is the digitalization of services for Roberts Construction & Engineering? What are you doing to improve them?
It is extremely important, if we are not able to keep up with the industry, we will fall behind and lose the competitive advantage. Our employees have been trained with project management courses overseas and we also have in-house teams. Since we will be reorganizing in 2020, we will also conduct a lot of trainings to digitalize the work in the industry and make us more competitive.
You have contributed a lot to the community development, you have also given meritorious service in the field of heritage and cultural endeavors. What is the contribution of the company in terms of CSR?
We have have been contributing for many years, it goes back to the restoration of the Methodist Church after it was demolished by the earthquake back in 1974, we donated large amount to that. We recently did some charity work with Doctor Fuller and the Attorney General to provide an area for handicapped people to work and develop their skills. We have worked on many charitable projects in a variety of sectors and have done a lot of work in Barbuda after it was destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
You are the owner of Roberts Construction & Engineering. In 2015, you were awarded the Grand Cross of Most Illustrious Order of Merit for your distinguished contribution to community development. What do you feel most proud of in your personal life?
What I am most proud of has been my contribution to society. I have assisted many individuals with housing and medical needs. I enjoy helping people.
What is your final message for Miami Herald readers who consider Antigua & Barbuda as a potential investment destination? Why is Roberts Construction & Engineering the best construction company for foreign investors?
We do not consider ourselves to be the best but we are challenging at the top. We are a humble group and have been developing properties and buildings for almost 40 years.