Junior Sammy Group

Over the last 10 to 15 years, the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago has been home to a booming construction industry that has seen the development of significant projects in sectors such as energy, public, housing and commercial. Junior Sammy Group of Companies  – one of the leading contractors in the southern Caribbean Island – has been one of the main contributors to these developments, CEO Dave Aqui says. “We’ve provided services to all these sectors,” he notes. 

The first company was founded in 1980 as a general contracting firm that specializes in the bulk transportation and civil sector. It currently averages about $500 million in annual revenues and executes individual sales in excess of $100 million in value. The group is composed of Junior Sammy Contractors Ltd., JUSAMCO Pavers Ltd. and Sammy’s Multilift Services Ltd. (A Crane Company).

Government spending and private investments are the primary factors behind the construction boom, Aqui says. However, as the global recession hit the country, private funding for projects have weakened, although government investments are still strong. 

“The private sector at this point has been cautious because of the global recession and environment,” he states. “But government activities have been quite consistent. They are heavily into infrastructural developments and we’re seeing a lot of activities continue in the energy sector.

“Most of the market changes we’ve seen is from the global recession – from the foreign investments to more government spending in the public sectors,” he adds. 

Because the private market has slowed down, the group is more conservative with internal investments and the projects it takes on. “We’re being very cautious with our development plans and measuring the growth of the continued activities in the major sectors,” Aqui says. 

“We’re watching our investments in the plant and equipment, and ensuring that there is a match between our investments and the prospective at hand.”

Trinidad and Tobago no longer has a “boom” construction industry, he adds, but there is still some level of buoyancy. “It’s more of measured consideration,” he describes. “Our investments are project-by-project related, and less speculated.”

High-Profile Project

In April 2009, JUSAMCO Pavers completed the Piarco Airport Expansion, one of its most challenging projects to date, Aqui says. The company’s scope of work included constructing parking ramps to the east, west and south of the new terminal building; expanding the apron into virgin territory to accommodate the ramps; placing concrete to hold aircraft; paving around the ramps; and painting directional markings for the aircraft. 

The tight timeframe was the main obstacle, Aqui notes. The company had to complete the project in two months, which meant working 24/7. On top of that, the company had to adhere to rigid FAA and International Civil Aviation Organization quality requirements, he says. 

For example, the standing ramps were constructed of 19 inches of high-strength concrete, Aqui says, and it had to achieve a certain level of strength to handle the designed weight of aircraft such as the Boeing 777 and Airbus 380. “Normally, concrete would be allowed 28 days to achieve its designed strength,” he says. But because of the tight schedule, “we had to achieve very high strength within seven days.

The concrete was a critical factor, as well as the mechanisms used to have it in place.”

The project team used a slipform machine, which was able to place that amount of concrete at that thickness in a single uniform pass and consistent matter, he says. The machine also enabled the material to be placed without cracking or overheating. “We placed [more than] 7,000 cubic meters of concrete in three weeks,” he adds.

Another quality requirement involved replacing asphalt around sections of the concrete. “It was a case where you had to place the concrete, and then around the perimeter, place the asphalt of the same thickness,” he says. “So, the asphalt around the concrete slab gets compacted and it’s a seamless transition.”

Another main challenge was that much of the materials and equipment used on the project were from other countries, Aqui says. “The slipform machine and the [Central Mix Plant], that was used was imported because that’s not usually used in Trinidad,” he explains. “And the aggregates had to be imported. The equipment came from Europe and the aggregates came from Canada.

“It’s not unusual to [import material and equipment], but it is unusual to bring equipment for a particular project and ship it back out,” he adds.

Focused on Employees

Although the economic conditions have forced the Group of Companies to be more careful, it has not had to make any changes internally, Aqui says. “We have not had to make any major structural changes in terms of work force or anything like that,” he says.

In fact, the company prides itself for investing in its employees. It has 1,000 full-time workers and can have up to 2,500 employees depending on the workload. “We try to remain on the cutting-edge of technology and skills, and we invest in technology and to some extent [R&D],” he adds.  

The company strives to attract quality and experienced employees first and foremost, he says. “We look for qualified persons at all levels, such as management supervisory and technical skills,” he says. “For our permanent employees, we engage the services of specialists in various fields from any part of the world to provide hands-on training.

“For employees who seek personal development by pursing training on their own, we have a policy of reimbursement if it’s related to the type of functions that the employees are engaged in,” he adds. 

The group also prides itself for maintaining a low turnover rate. Aqui has been with the firm for 14 years. “I think a major factor is that the company is a family-run business,” he says. “The executive chairman, Junior Sammy, has a hands-on approach to running the organization and has direct connections to all levels within the company. It has become a big extended family.”

The owner has a unique bond with its employees, he says. “The company’s worker-retention statistics are second-to-none in the industry and its safety record commendable,” he states. “Despite employing well over 1,000 personnel who operate on some of the more challenging projects in the country, we are proud to say that during the last five years, not a single lost-time incident has been recorded on any of our job sites.”

Company History

In 1980, the company was founded by Junior Sammy as Junior Sammy Contractors Ltd., a limited liability company with three directors –  Sammy, his mother Sybil and wife Linda, the company says. Its services included sand quarrying, equipment rental and general contracting. Later that decade, it expanded into civil engineering and became a general contractor. 

In the 1990s, the company entered the asphalt paving business because of the growth in that sector, it says. Its sister company, JUSAMCO Pavers Ltd., started operations with two asphalt mixing plants to manufacture hot and cold asphalt for paving works, mechanical spreaders and compacting rollers. 

In 2001, Junior Sammy acquired crane company Gopeesingh General Contractors Ltd. after Sammy noticed that the installations for the huge plants called for specialized equipment such as heavy-duty cranes and multi-axle trailers for heavy-duty transport. In 2008, that division was renamed Sammy’s Multilift Services Ltd.

Aqui foresees a bright future for the company. “We anticipate that we will hold our position as a premier construction company in Trinidad and Tobago,” he says. “It’s a family owned and run company. The organization is flat and we have good internal communication and interactions. We are happy to be a part of the national development.”

“Proud of its history and respectful of its responsibilities to its clients and its employees, [the company] looks toward the coming decades, secure in its experience, confident in its capabilities and dedicated to accomplishing whatever job it undertakes to the complete satisfaction of all stakeholders,” the company says.

Aqui also highlights its involvement in a new residential project called Bel Air Bay that is expected to bring many benefits to the company and the region. The scope of the project is 46 town homes in the city of San Fernando, which is located in southern Trinidad. 

The project broke ground in March. Phase one, which is 25 town homes, is scheduled to be completed in May 2011, and the second phase, which includes the rest of the units, is scheduled for completion in May 2012. “The response of the public has been very positive,” he adds.

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