Case Studies

Paul Kacha – Framaco International 

Making a world of infrastructural difference 

That $100 million-plus project took some doing. So Paul Kacha explains how his company, the general contracting and procurement specialist Framaco International, put the finishing touches on the new U.S. Embassy in the Papua New Guinea capital of Port Moresby a year ago. 

This being the South Pacific island’s first LEED-certified building and one that had to pass muster with the U.S. State Department, it became a nearly all-consuming project with the bulk of the work performed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and its ensuing personnel and supply chain shortages. Then, there was the tribal violence before and after the election that sustained Prime Minister James Marape’s administration. 

But when August 2022 rolled around, the ribbon-cutting for the substantial completion went as planned, one year later, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made his first visit. 

“That was a tremendous achievement, and I am very proud of what we accomplished during a global pandemic,” says Kacha, who runs Framaco’s construction division, while brother Gilles oversees the other division of Framaco International, its engineering, procurement and logistics business. “It was such a great effort by our entire staff in such a remote location on the planet.” 

But, as Kacha emphasizes, his company can’t dwell on yesterday’s accomplishments. Framaco’s agenda is busy, with the company partnering with the U.S. Department of State and other agencies to construct or renovate high-security embassies, consulates, government residences, military bases, hospitals and whatnot on many shores. Over the years, Framaco has successfully completed projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other dangerous parts of the globe. Even the projects in more peaceful locales don’t always go smoothly.  

“Each presents us with unique challenges,” Kacha says from Framaco headquarters in Rye Brook, New York. “An erupting volcano in Iceland, erratic foreign exchange fluctuations in Argentina, riots in Port Moresby—extraordinary challenges added to each location’s administrative and logistical demands.”  

Cold comfort 

While the volcanic activity in Iceland has been fairly dormant since February, Framaco must overcome other obstacles while designing and reconstructing the elegant building that serves as the Reykjavik Chief of Mission Residence in Iceland. The structure was originally built in 1928 and designed by a famous local architect, Einar Erlendsson. It underwent extensive renovations in 2018, with its mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems replaced and many cosmetic and functional systems upgraded. 

But while Iceland isn’t a member of the European Union, its relation to the EU is still based on what’s known as the European Economic Area Agreement, bringing it along with Liechtenstein and Norway into the EU’s internal market that guarantees the free movement of goods, services, personnel and capital. 

For Framaco to establish an Icelandic satellite and commence with groundbreaking, its executives needed to navigate the legal system. According to Kacha, the company showed its versatility by being able to check every box in just three months. But in Iceland and almost everywhere Framaco partners with U.S. agencies, it must comply with the 1933 Buy America Act, which compels the company to source its materials from domestic manufacturers.  

Needless to say, that can present its own logistical issues of high delivery costs and the possibility of supply shortages. Kacha, however, has Framaco retaining a division of experienced employees capable of expeditiously sourcing and moving materials. The firm also implemented a sophisticated quality assurance program with the company’s vendors to ensure the accurate loading of materials for transport.  

“Thanks to this cooperation, we can reduce the errors and omissions that could cause tremendous delays on a construction project,” he says. 

Global outreach 

So onward Framaco pushes with an ambitious to-do list that stretches into Latin America and the Caribbean, areas that Kacha sees as growing opportunities for construction. 

The Argentine project is similar to Iceland’s, renovating and upgrading a circa 1928 residency for the deputy chief of mission and family. Kacha reckons that by year’s end, Framaco will have completed an infrastructural overhaul and general upgrade for about $4 million. 

In Lima, Peru, the U.S. Embassy Marine Residence is getting a $3.2 million makeover that includes select demolition, construction and modification. Already, 14 dormitories have been spread on the second tier of the three-story building. And in Barbados, Framaco proceeds with a photovoltaic retrofit of the parking areas. The solar panels will power the embassy, reducing the need for oil and cutting costs. 

And elsewhere? Framaco, having built or renovated projects in more than 75 countries and nurturing big-ticket commercial and governmental clientele, always has something pending.  

Africa’s also on the radar, where Framaco has recently collaborated with the World Bank to identify opportunities for assembling solar-power infrastructure. This year will hopefully find opportunities for Framaco in, among other places, Panama, Greece, Austria, Uganda and France.  

“After more than 30 years of this, exciting opportunities remain crossing my desk,” Kacha says. “We look at everything that may present a challenge no matter the complexity and size.” 

And it sounds like the Kacha freres were born to become international builders and exporters. 

They learned early 

It seems in their DNA, the brothers having been born in Lebanon, where their father, Francois Kacha, had business interests that included manufacturing and construction. Lebanon was engulfed by civil war during much of the 1970s and 1980s, so the family fled to the United States, where Paul and Gilles enrolled, respectively, at the University of California, Berkeley and Purdue. 

Both men having honed their skills as boys at their father’s factories that manufactured homebuilding materials, Paul Kacha recalls how they fashioned products that extended from aluminum bars or wooden profiles. Upon graduating college, Paul Kacha worked for a commercial bank in New York City while Gilles Kacha managed a Boston hotel. By the late 1980s, they were ready to start their own EPL Engineering, Procurement and Logistics export company. 

“Looking back at the small apartment Gilles and I lived where we started Framaco and the tight budgets, as well as running the business, gives me a smile today,” Kacha says. “We were always under the gun to complete orders, negotiate new office space and meet our ever-growing business’s responsibilities.” 

That continues, only on a global scale and with higher stakes.  U.S. federal agencies are sticklers for quality workmanship, including the latest security features. A company such as Framaco must validate its reputation on every project. 

While neither Kachas will rest easy, each says he can take some comfort in how Framaco is often qualified for the most demanding projects. And while their sense of worldliness benefited from being raised in Lebanon and France, they are ecstatic about the opportunity that they have had since becoming U.S. citizens 

“In all honesty, we’ve been living the American dream,” Kacha says. “We’re going to keep growing our company, convincing US manufacturers to go global and export their made-in-the-USA goods. Go USA!”     

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. IV 2024 Edition here.

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