How two Haitian constructors have fought the odds to keep business local, boosting the area's economy by taking advantage of LEAD funding.
In Haiti, infrastructure projects are one of the largest employers in the national economy. Even though aid from other countries boosted the construction/manufacturing sector after the 2010 earthquake, aid has decreased considerably in recent years. Regardless, the demand for quality, affordable, locally-produced, disaster-resistant buildings still remains.
"Locally-produced" is key. Hundreds of retail stores purchase construction material from foreign wholesalers before importing and reselling the material in Haiti. Very little construction material is produced locally, leaving a lucrative market valued at $70.91 million to manufacturers overseas.
It could be a huge market for Haiti, but that money is getting shipped off the island. Haitian construction/manufacturing companies face very few regulatory issues. Two companies have taken advantage of the situation and placed themselves as a permanent part of Haiti's construction sector.
The USAID-funded LEAD program is proud to sponsor two construction/manufacturing enterprises that have served Haiti by producing and constructing locally. The two businesses have been highly successful, independently creating over 1,000 jobs and generating over $5 million in sales. Here's a peek into what makes these enterprises so special:
Veerhouse Voda, S.A.
The 2010 earthquake was devastating, turning buildings into piles of rubble on the ground. Veerhouse Voda S.A. established in 2012 as a result of the earthquake, upon the premise that they could build build a new type of steel construction that would prevent future natural hazards from becoming disastrous. The foreigner CEO, Brendon Brewster, has faced setbacks and unique obstacles, like getting loans from local banks and convincing international investors to invest in a place as volatile as Haiti. After Veerhouse Voda leaped through hurdle after hurdle, they soon found the support they were looking for when they participated in the LEAD business plan competition.
Since winning the US-funded grant, Veerhouse Voda has attracted other investors, enabling them to open a steel frame manufacturing plant in Port-au-Prince. Veerhouse Voda serves its clients by offering a business model that reduces costly material and engineering expenses. Aside from quality construction, their clients appreciate their transparent and open way of doing business.
Their structures are Eurocode compliant, hurricane and earthquake safe, energy efficient, and allow for quicker construction than traditional methods. Veerhouse Voda sells its manufactured material to local hardware stores, thereby building local economy.
They also offer trainings for "affiliate builders," or their partners, on using a variety of steel frames they produce in new engineering techniques.
The company grossed only $360K last year, but this year they have six construction contracts totaling $3.9 million. Major construction projects include a therapy center, rehab center, dialysis center, hospitals, and schools.
Aside from their construction projects, Veerhouse Voda is launching several socially-oriented projects, including an educational program on Expanded Polystyrene (EPS). They also train other construction companies on how to use the EPS construction method, thereby disseminating their disaster-resistant construction methods.
As of August 2017, Veerhouse Voda has created 931 jobs and has generated $3.6 million in sales. Veerhouse Voda takes pride not only in its many building projects, but more importantly on the thousands of lives its projects have changed.
Expert Concept S.A. is a woman-owned company that specializes in the construction of hurricane- and earthquake-resistant buildings. It constructs buildings using reinforced concrete or steel and provides electromechanical installation services. The company opened in 2006, but it wasn't until 2013 that it integrated into the metal structure construction market by opening one of Haiti's first metal factories. Its strategy is to offer specialized services that are usually outsourced to foreign firms.
After winning the LEAD business grant, Expert Concept had enough capital to open another workshop and since then, its production has increased significantly. The firm is part of the very few that offer quality construction services and products at an excellent price ratio.
In a highly male-dominated sector, Mrs. Monique Duperval, the CEO of Expert Concept, is the only woman in the country who is managing such a large construction/manufacturing company. The many successes of her projects have been acknowledged with awards all over the country. She's led the construction of schools, hotels, and the reconstruction of a college.
"The LEAD program's support has been a concrete bond," quips Duperval.
Expert Concept is now the only Haitian company that has a metallic structure workshop. With two strategically located workshops, it has been able to grow with more clients than ever. Expert Concept has created 275 direct jobs and generated $1.5 million in sales, as of August 2017.