50th Anniversary: 1989 – Formation of Hawaii Group
Dec 21, 2016 | by Lisa Schaefer
Long Painting Company had already been an established professional coatings application provider for over 20 years when they realized a lucrative potential in the neighboring Hawaiian Islands in 1989.
During the 1990s, Hawaii experienced a boom in construction, directly correlated with a swell in Japan’s economy. According to Honolulu Magazine, Japanese investments had begun pouring into Hawaii after a 1985 trade agreement weakened the dollar against the yen.
John Fisher, head of the Marine and Industrial division at Long Painting, spoke about the decision to move to the islands.
“We went to Hawaii back in 1990 at the request of a major customer, Kiewit Construction,” Fisher said. “They contracted us to help finish a massive project – the Waikoloa Hyatt Regency on the Big Island.”
Over one mile long and boasting 1200 rooms, this high-level resort was a major project for Long Painting.
“We had an average of about 25 people working on Waikoloa and by the end we ramped up to about 35 people,” Fisher said. “This was a brand new resort and we did all the wall coverings, painting, reflecting pools, fountains and painting on the interior and exterior, restaurants, guest rooms etc.”
The Waikoloa Hyatt Regency provided Long Painting the opportunity to get a foot in the door to the Hawaiian market, and while there, the company was able to pick another major project working on the Hyatt Regency in Kauai.
“It was in 1991 that we decided to make the move and build up a little office in Honolulu to take care of the Hawaiian market,” Fisher said. “We had a six man group running the office down there full time and were doing $4-5 million worth of work annually.”
While Long Painting stayed busy working several resorts at a time, Fisher said the company received major push back from the local contractors in the area.
“It was a real task to be out there,” Fisher said. “If you’re not from there the locals let you know it. For the bigger projects, we had to hire about 60-70% of our outside labor from the mainland in order to finish some of these major resorts on time.”
Long Painting worked on four of the biggest four-star resorts during the construction boom, and was able to supplement smaller painting jobs in the interim, such as schools and municipal buildings.
But anyone who was a part of Hawaii’s yen-fueled party would soon come to find it was over as quickly as it had begun. By 1992, construction started plummeting, as many Japanese-financed projects were halted.
One of the final jobs Long Painting was a part of was the Mirage Princeville Hotel on Kauai. After a seven year run, Long Painting made the executive decision to close up shop and shut down the Honolulu office.
“The big downturn happened in 1997, and all of the money ran out of the island like the tide,” said
Fisher. “There wasn’t enough work for the local guys, let alone the out-of- town contractors like us. It was extremely cut throat and we struggled to get any profitable work.”
While Long Painting did not return to the islands, the short run in Hawaii proved to be a great decision for the company.
“The market hasn’t been the same since we left, so we haven’t been back,” Fisher said. “It was short but amazing, our time in Hawaii.”