Emilio Flores / Corbis via Getty Images
A number of local firms have expressed interest in the federal procurement process relating to the design and construction of President Donald Trump’s border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Of the more than 700 companies that added their names to an initial list of "interested vendors" on the federal government's contracting website, at least 11 are in the San Antonio area. And despite the fact that even many Republicans in Texas oppose a border wall of any kind, around 120 companies from Texas alone have expressed interest in the government's border wall project and future solicitations.
Construction of the wall will cost an estimated $21.6 billion and take nearly four years to build, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report. At a time when public construction spending is down, a maximum of $300 million in contracts may be awarded just for the prototype, design, and mockup phase of the project.
Given the divisive nature of Trump's border wall project and ensuing executive orders on immigration crackdowns, firms that bid on and eventually work on the design and construction of the project could gain economically but attract controversy. The Washington Post reported Wednesday that a Fort Worth-based firm planning to bid on the wall project reported having received death threats.
Local firms Zachry Federal Construction Corporation and Raba Kistner Inc., have added their names to the list of "interested vendors" to build wall segments along the 2,000-mile-long southern border, according to a list on FedBizOpps obtained by the Rivard Report.
Zachry, a privately owned construction company and headquartered in San Antonio since 1952, confirmed its interest in bidding on the project.
"Zachry Federal intends to express interest in these projects through the Department of Homeland Security's official procurement process," a Zachry spokesperson stated in an email to the Rivard Report. "This type of federally-funded project falls squarely within the scope and experience of our construction teams and provides opportunities for our employees.”
According to the government's tracking website, USAspending.gov, Zachry holds more than $62 million covering 21 current federal contracts, including a nearly $30 million contract the company was awarded in September 2016 to build a new border patrol station checkpoint in Falfurrias in South Texas. That project is scheduled to be completed in June 2018.
Zachry specializes in the construction of large projects worldwide. It was founded by H.B. “Pat” Zachry, whose first contract after resigning from the Texas Highway Department in 1924 was a series of four concrete-reinforced bridges in Laredo.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection released a federal presolicitation in February that called for "wall structures, nominally 30 feet tall, that will meet requirements for aesthetics, anti-climbing, and resistance to tampering or damage." Because interest in Phase I of the project was so high and to accommodate industry feedback, CBP split the original presolicitation into separate Requests for Proposal, which were released on March 17 as a solid concrete border wall solicitation and a second for an unspecified "other" border wall, likely for designs required for use in more remote areas where concrete construction is less feasible due to terrain.
“As a federal contractor, we have prior border wall experience in Texas, as well as the technical competency and site familiarity that will be required," Raba Kistner's Director of Federal Services John Borland stated in an email to the Rivard Report. "We have been contacted by several construction firms and we are exploring all options, but our services will only be required during Phase II of the process, so we don't have details about the roles we may serve in until after the construction firms are selected."
There will be an additional, unspecified number of solicitations released over the life of the border wall project.
Other San Antonio-area companies named on the interested vendor list for the solid concrete border wall proposals include C.O.R.E. Management and Pesado Construction Company, both of Schertz, and S&B Infrastructure, Ltd., GFP Group, CP2C3, and RS1 Holdings. Messages left with these firms were not returned.
Caltex Interiors, GFP Group, HJD Capital and CP2C3 are Hispanic-owned businesses, according to FedBizOpps.gov.
"The Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, is finalizing the request for proposal and still estimates release soon," a March 14 update posted on FedBizOpps stated. "Industry interest has been high. To accommodate the industry interest, DHS CBP intends to expand the opportunity for offerors to propose wall designs."
However, opposition and obstacles to the massive construction project could delay the awarding of contracts.
Trump's proposed budget has allocated $4.1 billion for the wall through 2018, including funding for a cadre of Department of Justice attorneys to handle land disputes. Building a wall in Texas, with many strips of privately owned land along the border, presents a special challenge. In order to acquire the property needed for the wall's construction, the government may sue landowners with border property through eminent domain. On Tuesday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he supports plans to use eminent domain for the wall's construction.
In addition, litigation over the environmental impact of a massive wall on the banks of the Rio Grande and the rugged West Texas landscape would likely ensue and also delay construction. One report indicates that more than 100 endangered species could be negatively impacted by the wall.
On March 21, U.S. Reps. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Will Hurd (R-Texas), chair and vice chair of the House subcommittee on Homeland Security’s Border and Maritime Security, sent a letter to DHS Secretary John Kelly and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney asking for specific details of the Trump administration’s request for $999 million to plan, design, and construct the first installment of the border wall.
“As representatives of the communities that make up our southern border, we recognize the need for robust border security and infrastructure to ensure public safety and increase cross-border commerce,” the letter stated. “We also have an obligation to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars and as such have a number of questions.”
McSally's and Hurd's districts collectively represent 880 miles – nearly half – of the U.S.-Mexico border. In the letter, they ask for details regarding the location of the wall, a breakdown of investments in supplemental technology, and definitions of natural barriers, among other things.
“While we have both publicly stated in the past that we believe physical barriers to be one of many tools required to gain operational control of the border, we also believe that an expenditure this large, and submitted with limited details, deserves additional scrutiny to ensure funds are being used effectively in pursuit of our shared goal of securing the southwest border.”
To read the full letter, click here.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is the federal construction agency generally responsible for executing construction of border security walls and fences, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. AGC plans to meet with the Army Corps in May and discuss the project at its 2017 Federal Contractors Conference.
Meanwhile, Mexican-based cement and concrete manufacturer CEMEX has said it will not bid on the project or supply materials to third-party contractors, and the Archdiocese of Mexico City on Sunday condemned any Mexican firm that works on the wall as "traitors."