Pohnpei, FSM - On Tuesday, November 20, Ihso Nahnken of Nett Mr. Salvador Iriarte joined, President Manny Mori, Governor Johnny David, Senator Feliciano Perman and a host of dignitaries to celebrate the ground breaking of the Etscheit family's latest project, the Pohnpei Shopping Center. The upbeat spirit of the groundbreaking was not dampened by the rain that occasionally poured down in near horizontal streaks.
Senator Perman in his closing remarks congratulated the family and Agnes, its matriarch for their forward thinking. He said that he felt the shopping center would help with tourism by providing a much needed facelift and modernization to Pohnpei.
According to Robert Etscheit the 135,000 square foot shopping center will take one to three years to complete. The projected value of the shopping center is anticipated at approximately $8 million. The parking lot will be able to accommodate a maximum of 110 vehicles or slightly less than 1 car per 1000 square feet. The facility will house roughly 302 people who are currently employed in Pohnpei. The family estimates that there will be 85 to 135 new jobs because of the opening of the Shopping Center.
Anchoring the shopping center will be a relocated Ace Commercial Grocery Store. Brian Etscheit said that the family is working on techniques to keep the Grocery Store optimally stocked and that it shouldn't be a problem with the number of ships that currently arrive in Pohnpei on a monthly basis. Other businesses slated to occupy the Pohnpei Shopping Center include the Bank of Guam, Leo Wholesale, Hi-Tech Electronics Shop and Repair, A-1 Fabrics, A- 1 Tailoring, A-1 Fashions, A-1 Handicraft and Gift Shop, SP Bakery, House of Travel, and Ace Service Station which will offer fuel, minor repairs, and tuneups.
The family plans to additionally open four new businesses that will be housed in the complex. One of them is a Multi-purpose Center for conferences or for performing arts. The Center will have a stage, theater lighting, and sound systems and will be able to be subdivided into three separate areas by the use of movable walls. Robert Etscheit said that the family had not yet "decided what kind of stores will open but they are looking at a Beauty Salon, a possible Kinko's type place and two more that have not been discussed." Brian Etscheit said that the family is talking about a food court for the new shopping center. He said that developing leases for those businesses was tough going. They want to be sure that the restaurants in the food court are not all serving the same types of food.
According to Brian Etscheit, Senior Project Manager and Ace Construction Operations Director, Daniel P. Gleason, III who came to Pohnpei from Texas was chosen because of his experience with US Construction Standards and codes. He said that they wanted their new shopping center to be up to US Codes and needed someone who could manage that type of project. The Shopping Center will be built by Ace Construction, a wholly owned subsidiary of Etscheit Enterprise with a workforce consisting of 109 construction workers, 94% of whom will be locals. 6% will be expatriates.
When the shopping center is completed the next phase in the project will be a housing development close to water's edge. The third and final phase of the project would be a marina. According to Brian Etscheit, the family is working with the Environmental Protection Agency on specifications for a sea wall and beach for the complex.
Rumors circulated via the Micronesia Seminar Forum (www.micsem.org) were that a bowling alley is included in the plan. According to Robert Etscheit the family has discussed the possibility but that there are no immediate or concrete plans to do so. If they do build a small bowling alley it will not be a part of the Pohnpei Shopping Center complex but would be located near the Pohnpei Center Cinemas, also owned by the Etscheit family.
The family continues its charitable work through the Leo Etscheit Foundation. In addition to continuing to supply the meals at the hospital they recently also donated two more heart monitors to the hospital.
The Pohnpei Shopping Center is being constructed just south of the new United States Embassy project in Nett, Pohnpei.