The growth of the UAE has been phenomenal in scale and speed. Transforming the country's landscape from a desert to a thriving high-tech hub has been a formidable challenge - one that called for only the best industry builders, such as Actco General Contracting. Actco began as a small yet specialised local contracting and trading company in Dubai in 1975 and has developed into one of the industry's trusted partners. It focuses on heavy civil engineering projects, including power stations, sub-stations, desalination plants, oil and gas infrastructure, industrial and residential buildings and airport facilities. More than 70 per cent of Actco's projects are spearheaded by international companies, including ABB, Siemens, Alstom, Toshiba, Ansaldo and General Electric - all of which rely on Actco's local expertise. "It is essential for international companies to have an established partner that knows the local culture, standards and business practices," says Actco managing director Bashar Kamal. "We have seen the development of the UAE, and we even foresee the direction it is going. That is how ingrained Actco is in the UAE's industrialisation." Actco demonstrated such a partnership in the construction of the Jebel Ali M station power and desalination plant, which has a capacity of 2,400MW and 140 million gallons per day. Actco completed the civil and building works in co-operation with South Korea's Doosan and Italy's Fisia Italimpianti. The plant is among Actco's biggest projects, along with the government-owned University of Sharjah Teaching Hospital and Medical Complex, the region's largest state-of-the-art teaching hospital. "We believe in building long-term business relations because it always pays back in the long run," Kamal says. "We managed to grow amid ups and downs in the market, thanks to our solid local foundation. This is the strength that we bring to each partnership." Actco is extending its reach to Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar, and looks forward to forming more ties in Asia where its partnerships go back to 1986. It has longstanding partnerships with Japanese companies Toshiba International, Mitsubishi and Hitachi, and South Korean giants Samsung, Hyundai, Daewoo, Doosan, GS E&C and SK EC. Among the first UAE companies to become ISO 9001 and OHSAS 18001-certified, Actco looks forward to adding ISO 14001 certification to its credentials within a few months. It is interested in investing in alternative energy sources and new technologies, and hopes to find a suitable partner to support such endeavours. "Actco is at the stage of expansion - and we welcome companies looking for partnerships in areas where we can add value," Kamal says.