JUST THE RIGHT BLEND

Jamaica 2018 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Delroy Alcott, Managing Director of WIHCON, on the company's flexible strategy, positive outlook, and fruitful partnerships.

Delroy Alcott
BIOGRAPHY
Delroy Alcott joined WIHCON in 2005. He has worked in various areas of the industry for over 24 years, both in Jamaica and abroad. He has a degree in building from the University of Coventry, UK, a master’s in civil engineering from the University of Toronto, Canada, and an MBA from the University of the West Indies, Jamaica.

What is WIHCON's strategy?

WIHCON has two arms: we are a developer, and we are also one of the larger building and civil engineering contractors on the island. As a developer, we are always making long-term projections of the future and making commitments to this projection by securing land banks for at least five years. But government decisions and policies, for example taxes, and international competition have a significant impact on what we do. In Jamaica, we are one of, if not the only, major sectors of the economy that does not have any protection from international competition. Therefore, the industry is vulnerable to large companies from countries like China, Europe, and the US. Therefore, we formulate our long-terms plans within this uncertain operating space, which means we always have to reassess and, if necessary, change our plans and strategies. As a company, we try to balance our business by also operating in the contracting space for selected clients. This affords us the opportunity to bid and work on projects that do not have all the attendant risks a developer faces.

What income level are the majority of WIHCON's projects aimed at?

We undertake smaller mid- to higher-end developments, though not the extremely high end, as there are other companies that cover that segment. We then leverage these projects while looking for the larger lower-income project opportunities that have longer planning periods and require greater capital outlay. We try to create a blend of projects from the base to the top of the middle tier of developments in an attempt to even out demand fluctuations. This is a deliberate strategy by the company not to stick to one particular development band.

Does the company have a positive outlook with the economy in Jamaica doing quite well at the moment?

We are optimistic about the future of Jamaica. As a result, we are looking at putting products in the marketplace, which is a sign of our optimism. We have just finished a housing development at Red Hills called Forest Ridge. It is a combination of two- and three-bedroom condos as well as studios and two-bedroom apartments. We are just about to start another project across from our National Stadium featuring a six-story and a nine-story block of apartments. We expect to delivery about 18 months from the start of that development. We are bullish on the development side of the business and are active in the contracting space, tendering for opportunities with companies we feel are blue chip, meaning companies with an ability to pay. We are currently working on a project in Montego Bay in conjunction with the National Housing Trust where we are producing 1,500 one-bedroom, low-income solutions. The first delivery of around 400-500 units will be around YE2017. We are also looking to develop another 250 acres of land with a similar kind of joint venture and seeking other opportunities along the northern coast.

Is the smart house concept, developed in partnership with the Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), something you are planning to develop further in the future?

One of the things we are always looking at is how to make homes more energy efficient and smarter. We have introduced a pilot program for a housing development with JPS in Montego Bay where we are trying to create a smart house. The Ministry of Science, Energy, and Technology has a smart energy program, and we are actively courting the ministry to see if we can incorporate our smart house development into that program. We have to move with the times as a company and embrace the technologies that are available. We have to incorporate new, affordable technologies into the homes that we are developing, which will give us a competitive advantage. We are constantly on the lookout for products and opportunities to offer our customers through these partnerships.