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Local firm unhappy with hospital's decision
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Dear Editor:

My employer recently provided qualification information in response to a request for proposal (RFP) for the upcoming addition to Effingham Hospital. Unfortunately, Choate Construction Company was not selected as one of the final three to interview for the project.

In our own state of Georgia, unemployment is at 10.3 percent percent according to the Department of Labor. According to an analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America, Georgia lost 35,500 jobs from September 2008 to September 2009. That is very significant. In short, there are more contractors than there are jobs, so every opportunity is mission critical. Like many local businesses, our company is doing all that it can to keep its employees gainfully employed.

We sometimes venture into other areas in pursuit of work and have lost jobs for no other reason than not being local.  We heard from those involved on the Addition to Effingham Hospital that local participation would be important. As a citizen of Effingham County, I would hope that it would be. After all, where would any of us as concerned citizens want our money to remain but in our own county.

I would like to put a face on the company for you and your readers. Choate Construction Company’s office is in Pooler.  Although Pooler is in Chatham County, many of us reside in Effingham County.  We are local. We own property, pay taxes, and spend our money here. We are the customers that patron the area businesses — grocery stores, restaurants, hardware stores, retail shops, beauty parlors/barber shops, and such.

Our children attend the schools and we support the various booster clubs and parent-teacher organizations. We support the local Chambers and the various economic development initiatives. In the end, we will be part of the community utilizing the services of Effingham Hospital long after the other contractors have returned to wherever they are from.

The decision not to include us in the interview process would have been easier understood if we did not have ample experience and qualifications for the project. The addition to Effingham Hospital is anticipated to cost approximately $14 million and its construction scope is fairly typical to medical with no odd or unusual systems.  

In recent years, our company has successfully completed projects like Shepherd Center, a 260,000 square foot facility with new nine-story medical tower and four-story expansion to an existing building costing just over $41,000,000. The relationship and performance led to the subsequent award of a 359,400 square foot Irene and George Woodruff Residence Hall and Parking Deck right next door.  Then there is Newton Medical Center, where our company has successfully completed many repeat projects over the last 18 years. Other medical facilities served include, but are not limited to, Saint Francis Hospital, Beaufort Memorial Hospital, Southeastern Orthopedic and St. Joseph’s/Candler Health Systems.

One cannot help but wonder if those making the decision fell into the commonly held belief that, simply because the other contractors herald from larger cities, they are somehow more qualified or sophisticated than local firms? I am very confident that the key personnel from all firms have similar education and background. Or could it be that the program manager hired for the addition to Effingham Hospital and based in Brentwood, Tenn., already had relationships with the selected firms — from Birmingham and Atlanta — and simply wanted to do business with who it was comfortable?  

Whatever the reason, the Effingham community and its leaders need to understand and appreciate the impact to every local business, which affects the families that depend upon them for their livelihood, when precious dollars are spent elsewhere.  This project alone would have ensured gainful employment for a handful of local families over the next 12 months.  

As it is, I hope that whichever contractor is eventually awarded the project will be required to maximize local subcontractor and supplier participation.

Todd Osborne
Choate Construction