LAGUNA NIGUEL — Birtcher Construction Ltd. said Wednesday that it has opened offices in Singapore and Thailand and wants to secure construction projects in China.
Company President Andrew L. Youngquist also said that he is planning to finalize a third agreement for an office in Saudi Arabia, where Birtcher would manage the construction of office buildings, shopping malls and industrial parks.
The trio of joint ventures will be Birtcher's first major effort in the Far East and Middle East, and one of its initial forays into the international marketplace.
The Laguna Niguel-based general contractor and construction management company won a $60-million contract last year to build a service facility for wide-body jets in Tijuana. Three years ago, Birtcher was a joint venture partner in a hydroelectric dam to be built in Liberia, but that contract is on hold because of political turmoil in the African country.
"Asia and China over the next 20 years is where the growth will be," said Youngquist, who returned from the three-week tour of the Orient last week. "We had decided four years ago to go into the overseas markets, and the Asian market made more sense because we are in the Pacific Rim. Our playground was much bigger in Asia than in Europe."
Birtcher got involved in the Liberian project through a joint venture with Arciero Bros. Inc., an Anaheim-based concrete contractor.
In the new agreements, Birtcher would manage nearly all aspects of construction projects to keep them proceeding on time and within budgets.
"The things we do well in America, a lot of the other countries have not become involved in yet," Youngquist said.
In its Singapore venture, Birtcher will be partners with Chiu Teng Construction Co. TTE Ltd. in building a $26-million, 156-unit condominium complex. In Bangkok, Thailand, its partner is Decca V, a consortium of developers, to build a $15-million industrial park, as well as a $25-million, 400-room hotel on the Thailand-Cambodia border.
The Asian partners each have contacts in mainland China that could lead to future agreements to build in that country, Youngquist said.
"I predict that, given a year, you will see our signs in China," he said, adding that the "pent-up demand for housing would just blow your socks off."
More Southern California construction firms have sought Asian customers, not just because of Southern California's real estate downturn, but because of Asia's long-term opportunities. But it's not easy to win business. Youngquist said it took him four years of travel to establish these agreements.
"It does take a lot of time," said Jeffrey C. Pomeroy, vice president and district manager for the Austin Co.'s western office in Santa Ana. "But there's going to be a lot of opportunity there, and establishing relationships with local companies is a way to get involved relatively quickly. . . . Birtcher has done very well in Mexico, so it's a natural progression for them to go further west."
The Austin Co., based in Cleveland, has had an office in Tokyo since 1972 and has since opened a branch in Osaka, Japan. At first, the company only worked in partnerships with Japanese firms. In 1989, it became the first U.S. general contractor to get its own license to build in Japan. It currently is part of a consortium building research, training and housing facilities at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center in Tokyo. It also is renovating television studio facilities for a broadcasting network in the Philippines.
Youngquist said Birtcher's planned venture in Saudi Arabia is with a diversified, family-owned firm that wants to modernize its construction operations. The deal would involve $120 million worth of projects, including shopping centers, office and industrial buildings. Birtcher would at first have a small stake, but could eventually become half partners, he said.
"We are testing our compatibility," Youngquist said. "We want to walk real slow before we jump in."
Birtcher Construction Ltd.
Headquarters: Laguna Niguel
President: Andrew Youngquist
Regional offices: Los Angeles; Riverside; San Francisco; Honolulu; Kent, Wash.; Tualatin, Ore.; Singapore; Bangkok, Thailand
Facts and figures:
* Ranks as 111th-largest general contractor and construction manager in U.S., according to Engineering News Record
* Largest third-party residential home builder in California, according to Myers Group
* Employees: 126 (not including field staff)
* Founded: 1939 by Fayette Birtcher. Mitsui & Co. (USA) Inc. and its parent, Mitsui & Co. in Tokyo, bought a 50% equity interest in 1990
* Annual construction volume: more than $240 million in U.S. ($95 million under construction and backlog of $380 million)
Project types: Corporate headquarters, office buildings, resorts, clubhouses, shopping centers, churches, industrial buildings, single-family and multifamily housing
Current projects: Niketown at Triangle Square, Costa Mesa; Oceanview Promenade, Huntington Beach; Metro 2000 "super-mall," Carson
Clients: Bank of America, Parker Hannifin, Xerox Corp., Nike Inc., Hyundai Motor America, Irvine Co., Del Webb California Corp.
Source: Birtcher Construction Co. Ltd.; Researched by TED JOHNSON / For The Times
Los Angeles Times