Sunday, June 6, 2004

Nobleza Magsanoc, operations manager of the Pacific Resource Partnership, has been named president of the Hawaii chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction.

Magsanoc sees education
as key to building success

Nobleza Magsanoc

>> New post: Named president of the Hawaii chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction in October
>> Employment: Operations manager of the Pacific Resource Partnership, the joint market recovery program of the Hawaii Carpenters Union and unionized building contractors. Previously was an accountant for construction firm Morrison Knudsen.
>> Achievement: Pacific Century Fellows, class of 2004
>> Age: 36

What are the recent trends in Pacific Resource Partnership's membership?

I know for a fact that at the height of construction in the late '80s early '90s membership was up to 8,000. That dropped 50 percent during the downturn. Right now it's growing again, and I've heard numbers that we have 1,200 new apprentices. So right now it's about 5,000 to 6,000 members.

Will you get back to 8,000 members during the upcoming boom?

There are things that would have been labor intensive 10 years ago that aren't today. We will likely reach the same levels. We'll probably reach the same level even though there's going to be more work.

How does Hawaii compare to the mainland in terms of how many women make up the construction workforce?

It's still very small. In all construction capacities we make up about 20 percent. If you're talking trades we make up less than 3 percent. In Hawaii, we mirror that. Construction is still a male-dominated industry. On the positive side, we're seeing more and more women engineers. There's a lot of opportunities there for women. There's a lot of single mothers out there. If they can try and get into the trades, it's really a good way to get a living.

What are the biggest issues for women in the local construction industry?

I think the biggest obstacle that women face is just being accepted. And I'll say this as a woman: Women cannot expected to be treated as a woman. You have to pretty much pull your own weight. Physically, women are not as big as men are. Their physical abilities may not be up to par. But in certain capacities women can perform just as well as men. There are women who are out there. I know the carpenters have at least a couple of women who have had long-term careers who have been out in the field. We definitely need more.

What's Pacific Resource Partnership's position on proposed military construction tax breaks that have drawn controversy?

What we're really interested in is that there is a level playing field for all contractors involved. There was a (project labor agreement) that was signed. I think that's the most positive thing that can come out of it. It doesn't ensure that the work would go union; it ensures that there will be a level playing field.

Still, what about the tax-break issue?

I feel that tax breaks are good to encourage economic growth, but there comes a point where too much tax breaks can actually hurt the growth of the state. We have infrastructure problems and I know that's a county issue but we have other issues that our government can fix. A tax break cuts back on the amount of money that's going to government, and that prevents things from getting done.

You've said previously that -- construction being cyclical -- eventually there will have to be another downturn. How do you prepare for that?

Basically it's just making sure that our guys are trained. And the reason why we feel that's the biggest advantage we have is because, when it comes down to competition, there will be less work to bid for. We feel that's going to be our added advantage. Look at what we did during the last downturn. We worked to help with the local economy. In the last downturn what really saved construction was the state. The accelerated $1 billion capital improvement program, that did help. Also, the new training center in Kalaeloa should be ready in the latter part of the summer.

What did you do for Morrison Knudsen before joining Pacific Resource Partnership?

After grad school, I joined Morrison in the accounting apartment. I was an accounting grad and basically they were one of the biggest companies in town at the time. They came in to do the mass-transit project, which fell through shortly after I joined. We all lost our jobs because Morrison was really banking on that as their major project here in Hawaii. At that time, the position came through because someone asked me to help out. It seemed like an interesting prospect. I had bills to pay so here's a job.

(At Pacific Resource Partnership) we look at our program as a way to market the benefits and advantages of going union. A lot of people look at either "your for union or against union," but they overlook that we have quite a bit of training. I liken it to going to college. These guys, after work they go to school, they have to be there on time, they have to complete their course work. That's my job, making people realize that there is quality behind that experience. People don't realize it does take time it does take commitment to learn the craft of a journeyman carpenter. It's not difficult to flip a burger, which I've done. You don't spend four years learning the grill. (Construction is) a little more involved. One of the things that we're promoting now is education.

Inside Hawaii Inc. is a conversation with a member of the Hawaii business community who has changed jobs, been elected to a board or been recognized for accomplishments. Send questions and comments to


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