Guam’s construction workers and businesses could see more work, or at least existing paychecks sustained, with the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee’s approval Monday of $248 million worth of military construction projects on the island for fiscal 2017.

The House Appropriations Committee last week approved the same funding level, which reflects President Barack Obama’s request.

Most of the projects would pay for improvements to facilities on Andersen Air Force Base and Navy installations, but there’s also a $62 million item to help Guam Power Authority upgrade its substation in Harmon.

The Harmon substation is expected to provide power for the proposed Marine Corps base, in Dededo’s Finegayan area near Andersen.

Gary Hiles, chief economist at the Guam Department of Labor, said the proposed funding level “means that we are going to see continued substantial level of construction investments — comparable to what we’ve seen in recent years.”

Over the past seven years, the average annual amount of military funded construction projects in Guam was $237 million, so the proposed amount for fiscal 2017 represents a 6 percent increase, Hiles said.

He said the funding will at least ensure that jobs in the construction sector will be sustained following the completion of major construction projects, including the Dusit Thani Guam Resort building, Guam Regional Medical City and Port Authority’s $50 million worth of construction.

Construction projects worth almost $250 million can sustain nearly half of the 6,800 construction jobs on the island. Guam’s construction industry sees about $500 million worth of projects every year from the military, local government and private sector, Hiles said.

The local construction industry will see even more activity if $1 billion worth of Japanese government contribution for relocating almost 5,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam starts to get contracted out, Hiles said.

That $1 billion, if spent, will be construction’s wild card, he said.

Sen. Frank Aguon Jr. said he hopes the funding proposal, if subsequently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, would create more job opportunities for local workers and improve quality of life for service members and their families.

Local workers make up the bulk of the construction labor force. About 1,514 are foreign workers who were on H-2 B temporary work visas, local Labor Department statistics as of March 2016 show.

‘Rebalance’ strategy

The military construction funding is part of the United States’ “rebalance strategy,” Aguon said.

The military’s “rebalance,” to put more resources and shift troops in the Asia-Pacific region, is being implemented amid China’s territorial sea expansions and recurring threats from North Korea.

“Guam continues to be an important defense and economic hub for the U.S. in the region, especially with recent provocations by North Korea, and China’s continued assertive actions in the South and East China Seas,” Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo said in a press release.

“I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the House and Senate as the appropriations process continues,” Bordallo added.

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