Growing up in a family of builders and contractors, Juan A. Gacayan Jr. had his construction career carefully laid out before him.
“I learned the ropes of the trade by working alongside my father, Juan Gacayan, Sr.,” he said in his native language. “As a contractor, he would utilize my services and those of my uncles and cousins and that's how I got exposed to the construction industry.”
Gacayan, 55, is the founder and sole proprietor of JAG General Construction, a small-sized firm that has been providing structural, painting, iron work, electrical, and plumbing services in the CNMI since 2005.
A native of San Fernando City in La Union, Philippines, Gacayan received vocational education in a trade school in his hometown in addition to his hands-on training at his father's job sites.
He held various jobs in the Philippines, including as a mason, carpenter, and foreman. His last job in the country was as a maintenance staffer at Norma Hospital in the northern Luzon province before fate brought him to the Northern Marianas.
Gacayan flew to Saipan in October 1985 after he was hired by Sablan Construction as a mason for 15 solid years. He then worked for GPPC from 2000 to 2002 before moving to Chargualaf & Associates from 2002 until 2009.
It was during his time at Chargualaf & Associates that Gacayan first thought about starting his own company.
“My employer then, Manuel Chargualaf, was a very kind and supportive boss. I helped him in his construction company. When he passed away, his son Robert took over the business and I assisted him as well,” he said.
With his skills and decades of experience as his investment, Gacayan founded JAG Construction in San Antonio on May 9, 2005, and started accepting minor housing renovation projects on island, some of which were recommended by Chargualaf himself.
What began as a one-man team expanded in 2007 when Gacayan decided to hire three full-time workers to assist him. Around the same time, he also started his commercial cleaning business, which provides services to clients that they get through referrals.
Gacayan disclosed that they started out with small projects ranging between $2,000 and $10,000 in cost, and these earnings would be used as revolving fund for the firm.
“Initially, it was enough to pay for operational expenses,” he said. But Gacayan's perseverance, hard work, good reputation, and commitment eventually paid off, earning him job contracts not only with private individuals but also government agencies like the Public School System and the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.
His most recent project was with the Northern Marianas Housing Corp, which involved home construction at the Miha housing for a price tag of $57,000.
Gacayan said his meager revenues enabled him to provide for his family. The father of three said his children are now successful professionals, the eldest being an accountant in the Philippines, the second and only son a computer technician in Saudi Arabia, and the youngest is involved in the textile industry in Singapore.
“I didn't go on vacations for long periods so I can send money back home and support my children's education,” he said.
When asked if any of his children were ever interested in a career in the construction industry, Gacayan said that his son did study building and construction but ultimately decided to focus on computers.
“That was his decision and I support him,” he said.
Through his firm, Gacayan also was able to help his fellow Filipinos on island by providing jobs to eight.
Not everything has been a bed of roses for Gacayan and his business, as he continues to deal with several challenges like economic woes, immigration issues, and federal tax payments.
“But regulations are regulations and as a business owner, I have to follow and obey,” said Gacayan who is in the process of applying for an investor visa to allow him to stay lawfully in the CNMI. “I just hope we get more and bigger projects in the future so we can grow the company and help more people.”
Gacayan said he has several plans for his small firm, one of them a long-overdue transfer from San Antonio to Koblerville, which finally took place last March.
“Our new location provides better exposure for the business,” he explained.
Gacayan encouraged the community to employ the services of JAG Construction, which provides building solutions and value-added services to all its clients and patrons. Visit the firm located along Tinaktak Drive in Koblerville within the area of Saipan Southern High School. For more information, call 288-5982 or 287-3140.