Hundreds of Companies Raise Their Hands to Build Trump’s Border Wall
Congress hasn’t figured out how to pay for it yet, but more than 375 companies have told the Trump administration they’re interested in working on the controversial border-wall project.
Responses to what’s called a presolicitation notice posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website on Feb. 24 have poured in from potential vendors around the world. Among them: Swiss cement giant LafargeHolcim Ltd.; British construction company Balfour Beatty Plc; and General Dynamics Corp., a U.S. defense contractor that makes submarines and tanks.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency said it would likely put out a formal request on March 6 “for the design and build of several prototype wall structures.” That leaves the field wide open -- allowing companies to suggest what the structure should look like and be made of.
Those raising their hands by responding to the notice might not end up submitting tenders. But the early interest shows the enthusiasm for capitalizing on President Donald Trump’s plan to build a “great, great” wall, which he’d until recently repeatedly vowed to force Mexico to finance.
“We’re ramping up pretty fast,” said Ralph Hicks, senior vice president of governmental affairs at San Diego-based R.E. Staite Engineering Inc., which is working on a blueprint incorporating electronic-surveillance gear that would set off alarms if it sensed people approaching or tunneling underway.
The administration is moving fast too, considering Congress is just starting to plot out next fiscal year’s budget and determine how to carve out money for the edifice. Trump told the Conservative Political Action Conference last week the wall is “way ahead of schedule” and is “going to start soon.”
Potential bidders have been asked to submit prototypes by March 10. Those that are approved will be required to present full proposals, including prices, by March 24, according to the website. Awards are planned for mid-April.
For all that, it’s unclear how the undertaking will roll out. “It’s a fairly vague process right now,” said Hicks, whose company laid the foundation for the San Diego convention center.
It’s too soon, for example, to know how much cement might be required, LafargeHolcim Chief Executive Officer Eric Olsen said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. In fact, the wall might end up being a fence, at least in spots. Right now, fencing lines many of the 654 miles of the roughly 2,000-mile border where the U.S. already has erected barriers.
“We always welcome the opportunity to learn more about potential infrastructure projects,” Jocelyn Gerst, a spokeswoman for LafargeHolcim, said in an emailed statement. “Ultimately, we will evaluate our ability to provide superior products and leverage our extensive supply chain network to determine our involvement.”
U.S. Concrete Inc. put its name on the list of interested contenders. CEO Bill Sandbrook said the Euless, Texas-based company signed up on the Federal Business Opportunities site to gain the attention of the general contractors that might be hired. The endeavor is likely to be bid out in sections, he said, in the same way that large road construction jobs are.
“This is going to be a very fast-track job, so we want to make sure everyone involved knows of our interest to supply the concrete,” Sandbrook said.
General Dynamics might consider a proffer for “sensor elements, including cameras,” according to a spokeswoman. Other longtime government contractors responded to the notice include Caddell Construction Co.
The wall would cut through remote areas between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, creating challenges in places for delivering material and workers. Sandbrook said U.S. Concrete would be able to set up portable concrete-mixing plants in a week’s time and has 120 special trucks, known as volumetric mixers, that could also do the job. The company has had a border-wall contract in the past, he said, having supplied material for a section of an existing structure near El Paso, Texas.
Another cement maker that may want a piece of the project: Mexico’s Cemex SAB. Chairman Rogelio Zambrano said the company, which has plants on both sides of the border, would be willing to provide supplies.
A centerpiece of the Trump campaign, and part of a crackdown on immigration, the wall plan has roiled relations with Mexico. President Enrique Pena Nieto canceled a trip to Washington earlier this year after one of his U.S. counterpart’s declarations about making Mexico pay for construction.
Physically sealing off the southern nation has also divided Americans. A Pew Research Center poll last month found 62 percent oppose the idea while 35 percent favor it.
Trump has estimated the structure could be built for anywhere between $8 billion to $12 billion, while congressional Republicans have put the range at between $12 billion to $15 billion. Analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. have pegged it at possibly as much as $25 billion.
The plan for a concrete barrier “has odors of the Berlin Wall,” California Governor Jerry Brown said in an interview with Bloomberg News published Friday. “Who are they locking out and who are they locking in?”
(Corrects to say Bechtel and BL Harbert haven’t expressed interest in the project.)