ISSA Construction

Building into the future with an Island State of Mind


Expertly transforming the construction landscape in Jamaica through strategic expansion and a focus on innovation and client relationships.

In Jamaica’s competitive construction industry, ISSA Construction distinguishes itself through an impressive expansion of operations and a client-centric approach that has set the company on a path toward becoming one of the top builders in the region. Under the leadership of CEO Peter Issa and COO David Steele, the firm has embarked on an ambitious strategy to scale its capabilities, aiming to manage a significantly more extensive portfolio of projects.

COO David Steele

Issa explains the recent strategic changes within the company. “We’ve brought on David Steele as COO, and the whole goal of the company now is to go after a lot more jobs and be able to manage a lot more jobs than we were before,” he states. This shift is part of a broader vision to expand the firm’s footprint in the industry, striving to secure a spot among Jamaica’s top three most prominent construction companies.

According to Issa, the defining characteristic of ISSA Construction is its unparalleled dedication to client service. This ethos is not just a corporate philosophy but a practiced reality that significantly contributes to the firm’s high rate of repeat business. “We’re way more outgoing, and we make ourselves very available to our clients,” Issa explains. “From our communication standpoint to our transparency standpoint, from pretty much every standpoint there is.”

He continues, “That’s one of the main reasons our business comes mainly from repeat clients. We’ve done a lot of developments for developers who continue to use us.” This repeat business, Issa argues, stems from a foundation of honesty and openness, which has fostered deep trust between the company and its clients. “We’re readily available to them whenever they need. And we have a quick turnaround when they ask us to make adjustments to the drawings, on-site, or whatever it may be.”

The Importance of Relationships in Construction

In construction, where multiple disciplines intersect and timelines are often as tight as budgets, robust relationships become beneficial and essential. ISSA Construction recognizes this intricate dance of coordination and cooperation, strongly emphasizing relationship management as a core pillar of its operational strategy.

Issa articulates the critical nature of these relationships, framing construction as a discipline of project management intertwined deeply with interpersonal relations. “Construction boils down to project management and relationships with every single person involved in the project,” he explains. Clients’ emotional and financial investment in construction projects makes managing expectations and interactions crucial. “It’s very emotional,” Issa continues, “and that’s why it’s very critical to maintain the relationships with everybody involved. It’s people management.”

The complexity extends beyond just the client-contractor dynamic. Each subcontractor brings a unique set of challenges and styles to the project, necessitating a flexible and understanding approach from the main contractor. “We deal with a lot of different subcontractors daily. Each of them is different in how they speak and carry themselves,” Issa notes. “We must understand that and apply the best way to deal with them to maintain relationships.”

Strategic Expansion and Specialization in Services

As ISSA Construction embraces a period of rapid expansion and scaling, the organization is increasing its project load and fine-tuning its services’ balance and focus. This strategic shift involves honing project management practices, a pivotal area according to Steele, the newly appointed COO.

Steele elaborates on his primary focus since joining the company, emphasizing the integration of rigorous project management principles across all operations. “My main mandate when I was brought on was more to implement project management principles and apply those principles to any project we’re taking on,” he says. Recognizing the importance of team dynamics, Steele has also prioritized assembling a team adept in various construction disciplines. “I recruited people that are very adept in construction, but they also have a wide range of capabilities, from the design phase, project management phase, planning phase, execution, and post-contract as well.”

Further detailing his strategy, Steele touches upon the importance of relationship management and setting realistic expectations with clients, particularly during the planning stages of projects. “We focus on maintaining relationships. A big part of that is fully understanding what our clients want, understanding their expectations, and tempering them,” he explains. This involves comprehensive planning to mitigate risks once projects commence: “Construction is a moving target a lot of the time. So, we try to ironclad the planning phase as much as possible.”

Amidst expanding its project scope, ISSA Construction is also shifting its business focus toward more significant ventures, consciously stepping away from smaller projects. Issa outlines the considerable uptick in their operational capacity, “So I’d say probably 50 to 60% more.” He discusses recent project developments, like the Trafalgar Road project, which, despite delays, is scheduled to commence soon with an estimated cost of around 300 to $350 million. “We aim to manage 3 to 4 of those jobs simultaneously,” he states.

Steele also shares an outlook on the company’s trajectory towards tackling larger new build projects. “That’s slowly transitioning, as Peter has mentioned, with the expanded team. We are in a position to take on much larger projects, much larger new build projects that will make a mark here in Jamaica,” he affirms, highlighting an ambitious future for ISSA Construction as it continues to adapt and expand its operational scope and impact in the construction industry.

Challenges and Collaborations in High-Profile Projects

As ISSA Construction gears up for a critical growth trajectory, the company is deeply involved in two significant projects that underscore its expanding capabilities and strategic focus on larger, complex projects. Issa elaborates on the current status and challenges associated with these ambitious projects.

“This project should have started as well, but there were changes that were being made, and with the recent change of the mall, the approval process has a backlog,” he explains about the delays affecting the new headquarters for a major pipe company. Both the Trafalgar Road and Israel Tech headquarters projects are large-scale, each with its own unique demands and scale—19,800 square feet and 16,000 square feet, respectively.

Regarding design collaborations, Issa shares details about the architectural expertise involved in these projects. “For the Trafalgar Road, we worked with an outside architect, Ryan Battick. He’s a young architect who is very talented. He has a company called Mosaic Architects. He did the design for that building,” he says. Another prominent architect, Jeremy Millingen, was chosen for the Israel Tech project. Issa illustrates the flexibility in their operational model: “If clients ask us for that service, we will offer it. But often, they will hire the architect and bring us on board afterward.”

Discussing the key suppliers and subcontractors that play a crucial role in ISSA Construction’s operations, Issa mentions several notable collaborations that help push the company’s agenda forward. “Tank-Weld is a big supplier of ours. Creative Building Finishes, we buy a lot of tiles from them. Active Traders as well. They sell tiles, toilets, countertops,” he states. Issa also notes another critical supplier, “ARC Manufacturers, as well.” These relationships support the company’s logistical needs and enhance its ability to deliver projects effectively, maintaining quality and efficiency across its expanding portfolio.

Addressing Labor Shortages and Supply Chain Challenges

The construction industry, often a bellwether for economic shifts, is encountering significant labor shortages and supply chain disruptions, which have intensified in Jamaica in recent years. Steele articulates the impact of the labor shortage that a national announcement from the Prime Minister has accentuated.

“Last year, our prime minister announced national news about the labor shortage and skilled labor. We were having too many projects undertaken in Jamaica with insufficient skilled labor to supply,” Steele shares. This shortage has significantly affected project scheduling and budgeting. “You tend to find that you’d start with a certain complement of skilled labor, whether it’s carpentry, masonry, steel work, and midway through the project, you would find that that complement has been cut in half,” he explains, emphasizing the fluidity and unpredictability in workforce availability that can derail project timelines and inflate costs.

On incentives for retaining workers, Issa is candid about the limitations of such strategies given the project-driven demand for specific skills. “Regarding the subcontractors, there’s the incentive to get them on the job. But you must understand that we may tile our building in April and don’t have any tiling work till July. So, the tiler we’ve used is excellent. He may go to another site in May, but that site may require him to work till December,” he explains. Issa highlights that while they can incentivize workers to complete tasks efficiently and to a high standard on-site, the intermittent nature of specific jobs does not support long-term retention between projects.


Supply Chain Dynamics and Industry Trends

Understanding supply chain dynamics and industry trends becomes crucial as ISSA Construction continues to scale and adapt to the evolving market conditions. Issa and Steele provide insights into how these factors shape the company’s operations and strategic outlook.

Issa begins by addressing the stability of their supply chains, which appear robust despite global disruptions experienced in many industries. “From my understanding, we haven’t had any issues because Jamaicans build very traditionally, with block and steel,” he explains. This traditional approach to building has insulated them somewhat from international supply chain issues, as most essential materials are sourced locally.

Regarding industry trends, Issa observes resistance to change in local building practices despite the availability of innovative materials and methods. “Jamaica, in general, is very old-fashioned when it comes to building methods,” he states. However, ISSA Construction explores new technologies where feasible: “Free Foam, a foam company, offers foam solutions for exterior and internal wall panels. We’re always looking at new products we can try on our developments and see how they work out,” Issa adds.

Steele expands on the discussion by pointing out broader trends affecting the construction industry, particularly the increasing importance of sustainable and resilient building practices. “There’s been a renewed focus on sustainable construction,” Steele notes, citing the growing educational efforts around renewable energy sources and eco-friendly building materials in the Caribbean. “Jamaica and the wider Caribbean have been getting much more education related to renewable energy sources and eco-friendly building materials.”

Prioritizing Strategic Growth and Operational Excellence

As ISSA Construction positions itself for future growth, the focus is sharply on enhancing operational processes and expanding its footprint in Jamaica and across the Caribbean. Steele outlines the company’s priorities and emphasizes refining its operational framework.

“Well, for the rest of the year and moving forward, the main focus is streamlining our processes and building out our systems closely linked to project management,” he explains. This focus is critical, as it directly impacts the company’s ability to scale operations and manage multiple large projects simultaneously without compromising quality or timelines.

Steele further elaborates on the importance of meticulous planning and risk mitigation as foundational practices that enhance the company’s project delivery capabilities. “Ensuring that the supervisors and the project managers that we bring on board take the extra time to plan the project and mitigate against possible risks, which again, would enable us as a company to take on much larger projects, take on larger projects at the same time,” he states. This approach is intended to safeguard the company against potential setbacks and streamline project execution.

Reflecting on the company’s collective expertise, Steele is confident about the depth of knowledge and experience they can leverage. “I think right now internally, we’re looking at over 50 years of construction experience, not just in construction but in architectural design, MEP design, structural design,” he shares. This extensive reservoir of skills and experience forms the backbone of their strategic initiatives, enabling the company to innovate and improve continuously.

These strategic directions solidify ISSA Construction’s commitment to growth, quality, and excellence, setting the stage for the company to strengthen its market presence and enhance its competitive edge in the construction industry across the Caribbean.


ISSA Construction

What: A leading construction firm focusing on large-scale projects and innovative building solutions

Where: Jamaica



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