Kohala Creative Construction LLC

Kohala Creative Construction LLC strives to be a one-stop shop for its clients, CEO Michael Bonahan says. “We’re able to provide finished products from concept to completion,” he states. Based in Kamuela, Hawaii, the general contractor specializes in residential development and construction, as well as small commercial projects. “Ninety percent of our business [occurs] on the Big Island,” Bonahan says.

A third-generation builder, Bonahan founded Kohala in 2002 as a millwork company. The firm had a modest start with approximately $1 million in annual revenues in its early years.

However, Kohala found growth when it transitioned from millwork to general contracting. “From that, we started working with some subs,” he recalls. “[But] we found that a lot of our subs and suppliers were unable to fulfill our clients’ requests.”

To meet its customers’ needs, Kohala chose to take on all aspects of site work, Bonahan says. Additionally, “We started acquiring some of our competitors,” he says. Kohala’s acquisitions included Creative Finishes, a stone import/installation firm, and Akamai Automation, which specializes in the integration of low-voltage systems.

The hard work and vertical integration have paid off, Bonahan says. Last year, Kohala enjoyed sales of $14.5 million and now employs a full-time staff of 30 associates. “We are available to our customers at all hours,” he says. “We’re committed to what we’re doing.”

Living the Dream

A longtime veteran of construction, Bohanan’s family has firm roots in the business. His grandfather was a master mason who worked during the Great Depression, and his uncles were masons and carpenters, as well. 

Bonahan himself joined the industry as a carpenter on job sites. “I worked my way up through construction management,” he says, noting that he continues to find the industry to be exciting.

“First of all, living and working in Hawaii is a dream,” he says, adding that he also gets satisfaction from building “the best possible product” for clients, who recommend the firm to others. “We work primarily [through] referrals. We barely do any marketing.”

On the Coast

Kohala’s recent projects include homes located on Hawaii’s Kona/Kohala coast in the Waikoloa Beach Resort and Hualālai Resort developments. So far, the company has built six large custom homes, at a budget of approximately $7.5 million each. “However, we have planned two more,” he says. 

Additionally, some of the homes use net metering systems for solar energy. “We can produce energy in the daylight,” he says, noting that the systems can offset typical power consumption by as much as 95 percent. 

This reflects Kohala’s own green focus, Bonahan says. For instance, “Our workshop uses sustainable materials to build running trim and millwork,” he says.

“We’ve used everything from Lyptus to reclaimed and renewable mahogany,” he says, adding that the company also buys from certified green suppliers. “That [ensures that] for every tree that’s being harvested, that 10 [more] are being planted.”

Kohala’s New Focus

To adapt to the troubled economy, Kohala has changed its approach to building, Bonahan says. Although the company once developed and built its own spec projects, “We are taking on more custom work,” he says. “[We are] letting the customer come to us instead of us building a project and trying to lease or sell.”

Bonahan predicts that this custom focus will continue in the next few years. However, “We recently just acquired some more [land],” he says. “We will take time to make those sales, before we develop.”

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