Tinian Casino Developer: No Problem Finding Local Workers

U.S.-based company contradicts claims by Hong Kong investor

By Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, May 19, 2016) – U.S.-based Bridge Investment Group, the developer who plans to build a $150-million hotel resort on Tinian Harbor, said they have no problem at all with getting local labor and utilizing local products on Tinian in response to recent comments made by fellow Tinian investor Hong Kong-based Alter City Group.

BIG chief executive officer Phillip Mendiola-Long said that they have “a vastly different opinion” regarding local labor and goods on Tinian.

“We have seen very little difficulty with employing eager and talented local Tinian workers.  In fact, we already employ over 70 employees with 60 of them being U.S. citizen local residents,” Mendiola-Long said.

“Part of our success is in our valuation of our employees and our commitment to pay them at U.S. mainland wages.  None of our employees earn less than $7 per hour with some earning as much as $15 and $30 per hour.  Our employees also receive annual and sick leave accrual, yearly bonuses, and soon to be incorporated company shared medical insurance,” he added.

BIG was responding to statements made by ACG executives regarding the conditions for their qualifying certificates that include having locals to fill 30 percent of their employee needs.

ACG projects needing “at least 1,000 staff for Phase 1 of the development” which would mean hiring about 300 locals on Tinian.

ACG chief executive officer Edvon Sze said that it would be very difficult for them to hire locally because the population on Tinian is not high.

“We prefer to hire locals, as a matter of fact. But again, it’s going to be difficult for us and we don’t think we will be able to do it even though we’re willing to hire locals. And if we cannot achieve it, if we cannot comply with the conditions in the QC, there is no way we can get the benefit back at the end of the year,” Sze said in an earlier interview with Saipan Tribune.

Sze also mentioned the requirement of buying local products which is no problem for them, but worrisome if there are no supplies of local products available.

According to Mendiola-Long, they have just announced the hiring of another 30 employees and have been overwhelmed by the local resident interest in these positions.

“Of course, when you are talking about 2,000 employees, there will be a significant challenge but at this point, I don’t see where Alter City would require 2,000 jobs in the next three to five years. This means Tinian and the business community has the time and opportunity to work with the local high school, Northern Marianas College, and our residents abroad to encourage and entice young adults to return home for a good-paying job,” Mendiola-Long said.

He added that BIG invests heavily on training their local employees on various aspects such as heavy equipment certification in Guam, safety training in the U.S. mainland, or local Occupational Safety and Health Administration certification.

“We are committed to spending what it takes to get Tinian’s local workforce to where it needs to be.  We have also developed a ‘1 plus 2’ program where, when we have no choice but to hire a foreign worker, we shadow that foreign worker with two local trainees who are expected to learn the trade from the foreign worker. This not only develops our future workforce, but increases the skill levels on Tinian so that companies like Alter City can utilize them in the future,” Mendiola-Long said.

Mendiola-Long said BIG’s philosophy is all about localization.

“Whenever possible, we do more than is required to include local involvement whether it be through local employment, local donations, or purchasing our goods locally.  Do we have the opportunity to hire abroad or purchase materials abroad, of course we do, but we feel that the extra cost of hiring local and purchasing local is better for the community and the company in the long run, especially since we plan to be a part of Tinian for a long time,” Mendiola-Long said.

He added that the opportunity to create enough local labor and local goods suppliers on Tinian definitely exists.

“One just has to go the extra mile and be committed not only to their project investment but be solidly committed to a social investment as well.  At Bridge Investment Group, I think we have proven it can be done and we are willing to show Alter City how it can be accomplished,” Mendiola-Long said.

Saipan Tribune
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