RLJ Companies Adds Partners in Haiti Housing Project

Thousands of jobs will be created if project is approved

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Port-Au-Prince: Haitian President Rene Preval; Bob Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies; Youri Mevs, managing partner, Haiti-based WIN Group, and president of the Haitian Economic Development Foundation. (RLJ Companies, Randy Valdes)

Haitian President Rene Preval is pushing for swift approval of Bob Johnson and WIN Group's Youri Mevs proposal to build homes in the country. (Source: RLJ Companies)

Bob Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies, expects his latest partnership to help create “a vibrant middle class” in Haiti.

Johnson announced Wednesday that Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. (RCL) and Haiti-based WIN Group have joined with an RLJ-led partnership to build two structured insulated panel (SIP) manufacturing facilities that will provide construction materials for building housing and infrastructure in Haiti. At the request of the government agency that will approve the project, Johnson declined to disclose how much funding the project would need to be completed.

The deal would provide three things to earthquake-devastated Haiti, says Johnson: Technology would now be located in the country, Haitians would be trained to operate the facility, and most importantly, the plants would stimulate job creation spin-offs, which would significantly boost the economy in the long term. And ultimately, it would “create a growing and vibrant middle class.”

Johnson said each of the factories would hire about 500 people to build the factories; then there will be ongoing operators of about 100 each to maintain the factories. “Thousands more people would be hired as we get more contracts to build more buildings,” he said Thursday.

The facilities would be developed through Johnson’s Caribbean Opportunity Holdings, a company jointly owned by RLJ and Global Building Solutions (GBS), a South Carolina-based international SIP manufacturer and design/build organization. In April, RLJ had announced that it would be teaming up with GBS to develop the quick and cost-effective mass housing in Haiti following the country’s January earthquake.

Haiti was devastated by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January that killed an estimated 230,000 people and left 1.3 million survivors homeless and living in tent camps.

Johnson is the chairman of RLJ Equity Partners L.L.C. (No. 10 on the BE Private Equities list with $230.0 million assets under management), launched RLJ Development L.L.C. (No. 8 on the BE Industrial/Service list with $528.7 million in revenue), and is the creator of Black Entertainment Television.

Johnson’s group must submit its formal proposal to the government by July 22, and should learn soon afterward if the proposal is approved for funding by the Interim Haiti Reconstruction Commission as a priority project. If approved, it should take about six to seven months to build each of the two plants, Johnson said. “But we can start some construction projects now that’ve already been funded,” he said, explaining that Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive has asked the alliance to start on some projects now.

SIP technology is stronger than traditionally built homes and is more resistant to earthquakes, wind, and other natural elements. In a climate such as Haiti’s, it offers added strength and durability at a competitive value. The product is also green technology, which creates structures that are energy-efficient and comfortable.

Royal Caribbean Cruises, the largest global cruise brand, is the second largest investor in Haiti with cruise lines that port in Labadee. The company had faced criticism for its decision to continue with its scheduled port of call at the resort port three days after the earthquake. The 3,654-passenger Independence of the Seas delivered much-needed relief supplies in addition to thousands of tourists. WIN Group is one of the Caribbean’s largest conglomerates, with stakes in diverse industries such as warehousing, storage, and port operations.

“While the situation in Haiti is extremely challenging, our team was very encouraged by President Preval’s leadership, his commitment to political stability, openness towards the international business community, and desire for further investment,” said Johnson in a press release.

  • ana

    This is a great and worth while endeavor. Helping people who are in desperate need,that is what it”s all about,no more no less! African Americans should pool their resources together and help each other.Each ONE ,TEACH ONE! Every Group or Nationalities of people, keep their resources in their own communities except, African Americans! Let’s refrain from giving our wealth to other group of people! KEEP THE WEALTH IN OUR OWN COMMUNITIES! NO ONE CARES ABOUT US!

  • msla56

    Hey Bob what are you getting out of this. It has always been about money when it come to you.
    you have never did anything from the heart. I will always rememeber your words during the 2008 election. I have lost all respect for you

  • Lela

    2008 happened. …I didn’t like it either; but its history. Today, we must agree that anyone with the resources to help have a responsibility to help. …’to whom much is given, much is required’ …or something like that. …true redemption is possible and love covers a multitude. So Bob, if you can, help people; what is worth more than that? Capital gains will come from this, no doubt. But, look at the lives to be saved, empowered, etc.. that is the joy I feel from reading this.

  • Cheyenne

    I applaud Mr. Johnson for his desire to help the Haitian people. His philanthropic efforts have helped many people in the past. Mr. Johnson has a good heart, and I wish people would get over their ridiculous assumptions. Stop hating Mr. Johnson, get a life, and find something that you can do to help not only the Haitians, but those you come into contact with on a regular basis who may need your help. One does not have to look very far to find someone in need.

  • Mr Johnson my name is Carl Hamer CEO Potad International Consultants and I to belive its important that we combined all resources to help those world wide who are in need. I have been on the ground in Haiti and my spirit has condition me and my team to play a part to provide shelter for thousands of Haitian woman,men and children. I have reasearch your plan and I ask that you allow me to join your efforts to help our own Haitian brothers and sisters and the children.My team has created a product that would be very useful with your panels,and allow me to provide a village community for your team,workers,and visitors. I team up with the number one fabric structure manufactor in the world.WE ALL WHO CAN SHOULD, AND I ASK THAT YOU CONSIDER MY TEAM. http://WWW.POTAD33.COM.

  • I have a feeling Haiti will end up with horrific looking buildings and that is why we havent seen what they are talking about. We want the city to be beautiful and sometimes we have to add that to the mix to push people to find ways.

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  • Aden Azcarate

    Unfortunately, even though the SIPs panels seem unique and ‘green’, they are both expensive and obsolete with new building technology coming this 2012. On top of that, the still utilize carbon-emitting compounds. The term “green” is not regulated or even truly classified in the construction industry, so for that matter- people use ‘green’ to describe their products- even if they only save 5% of energy bills over the standard industry. Primus has a technology that costs about 50% less than SIPs, superior in quality AND IS ‘green’ by many angles. HOWEVER, I haven’t seen anything on the market for builders since their presentation in Atlanta last year. I don’t think they’re available in stores, yet. Haiti has always been wronged by ‘humanitarian housing’ companies because those who build the units intend to make a lot of money in the process. Does anyone know if Primus has their panels up for sale, or if there is any other company out there who truly does humanitarian housing that is stable and excellent, but not trying to win the lottery with every sale? If you know of one, please e-mail me at lagundi_99@yahoo dot com and tell me more. Something that is great and can change the market is worth some free PR, and I’ll be the first one to push it to other builders.