The Hawaii Island Contractors’ Association (HICA) can trace its history back to the pre-World War II town of Hilo, on the Island of Hawaii. The Association had its beginnings as a strictly social organization of Hilo building industry professionals who held parties at various tea houses and dubbed themselves the Japanese Contractors’ Association.
In 1958, with a desire to include a larger population and become more politically active, the group incorporated as the Hilo Contractors’ Association.
Then, in 1959 and 1960 a series of notable events in the Big Island building industry helped launch the Association’s activities:
- The threat of Hurricane Dot in the first week of August 1959. Although the hurricane ultimately did not make landfall on the Big Island, discussions were necessary to prepare for its possibility, as well as to determine who would be responsible for repairs.
- On August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States of America, resulting in a great amount of business development, particularly in the construction industries.
- The lava flow which destroyed the town of Kapoho in the Puna District in January 1960. The Hilo Contractors’ Association was called upon by the County of Hawaii government, and “Operation Bulldozer” was put into effect.
- The tsunami which destroyed much of downtown Hilo on May 23, 1960. According to several original Association members, the State of Hawaii asked the Association to lead a concerted effort to gather both contractors and equipment in order to help clean-up and rebuild the decimated downtown Hilo area.
“In 1960 an organization was finally formed because a series of incidents occurred in Hilo,” recalled then-President George McEldowney in 1986, who had also been president in 1962 and 1971. “Because of this everyone felt the need to come together.”
In the early 1960s, at the time having no more than 40 members, the young Association nevertheless managed to establish a bidding procedure and bid pickup system — where customers and developers needing bids dropped off their requests, which were then picked up by general contractors for pricing. Also formed was the Construction Industry Legislation Organization (CILO) as well as the Hawaii State Contractors’ Council. The Hawaii State Contractors’ Council has since dissolved, but the CILO continues today as the Construction Industry Council of Hawaii (CICH).
Around this time, the organization also built their office, which is still located today at 494-C Kalanikoa Street in Hilo.
In the 1960s and ’70s, delegations of members from the Hilo Contractors’ Association made several trips to Honolulu. On one such occasion, the group met with then-Governor George Ariyoshi to update him on the status of the building industry on the Island of Hawaii. They also requested that the State release funds to aid in the resuscitation of the slow industry at the time.