“When I look back upon my life, I recall the hard times as vividly as the affluent, energetic society of today. These memories are a part of me. These are the essence of what we have built, whatever structures, whatever hard work, whatever technological challenges we have faced, and whatever human failings we have had. These are what have prevented me from entertaining any idea of retreat.”
Glyn T. H. Ing, the founder of Continental Engineering Corporation
In the post-war era, Taiwan’s civil engineering industry has rebuilt an island and delivered world-class infrastructure reflecting the needs and aspirations of one of Asia’s most dynamic countries. Synonymous with the rise of the civil construction industry in the island nation, Glyn T. H. Ing shaped the industry through his example, vision, and force of personality. The company he founded, Continental Engineering Corporation (CEC), built some of Taiwan’s most technically ambitious structures and became Taiwan’s first civil engineering company to explore global markets. Its legacy includes not only the built landscape but also the values that infuse the professionally managed, global enterprise CEC has become today.
The Story Begins
China, in the early years of the 20th century, was a country in distress. The new republic that followed upon the nearly 300-year-old Ch’ing Dynasty aspired to modernization, but was crippled by political division and unrelenting pressure from Japan. Born into this troubled era, the young Glyn Ing was attracted by engineering and the prospect of building the networks of transport and industry that China would need for restoration and transformation.
A native of Pingyang County in Zhejiang Province, Ing entered China’s most prestigious civil engineering school, Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 1932 at the age of 18. Graduating in 1936, he served as an engineer in both the Lung-Hai Railway Management Bureau and the Chuan-Kang Transportation Bureau. The experience meant that as a young man, Ing trained on some of China’s most challenging and ambitious transport projects in its northwest and southwest border regions, during the height of the anti-Japanese resistance.
By 1941, Ing was ready to found his own company, Wei Dah Corporation, from his base inChungking. In 1945, at the end of World War II, with Japan’s surrender, Ing aspired to use his engineering and commercial abilities to rebuild and transform the nation. The name he chose for his new company, Continental Engineering Corporation, reflected the continental sweep of his vision of a reborn, prosperous China.
In 1948, as political turmoil again engulfed China, Ing moved his company to Taiwan, where he threw himself into building and civil engineering projects that became a byword for technical innovation and quality.
Building a Legend
Over half a century, until his death in 1980, Ing dedicated himself to raising standards in the construction industry in Taiwan, as well as realizing the quality of life appropriate to an advanced industrial country through projects that embodied world-class design. Intrinsic to his thinking were the ideas that trust, discipline, quality, and innovation should be the cornerstones of his business. Today, these make up our core identity as a company as well as the chief assets of our corporate culture.
By the standards of his peers, some of the positions that Ing took during his career were extreme. For example, he believed that he needed to be ready to meet his contractual commitments even when it meant losses for the company. An example from the 1980s was Hao Ran Mansion, which was sold on a pre-construction basis. As construction work began, prices for labor and materials skyrocketed. Instead of renegotiating, Ing insisted on completing the project on time at the original price, with no sacrifice of quality. This is how Ing believed he could win the trust of his clients.
Another core principle was self-discipline, which for him meant corporate as well as personal self-discipline. System was all-important. Ing was notorious for taking a hammer in his pocket to construction sites and tapping on structures for himself, looking for defects that might have been missed, and pointing out anything he found in no uncertain terms. His conduct is one of the reasons why the CEC brand is seen today as a guarantee of high quality.
Ing was also willing to take the time it required to achieve his high standards, well beyond the usual commercial time frame. In 1984, the company obtained permission to build a 100-hectare residential development. Instead of starting construction quickly to maximize returns, Ing did the opposite – taking 15 years and spending millions to develop the expertise in geotechnical engineering that would enable him to integrate the development with its natural surroundings, minimize environmental damage from construction, and build a community reflecting an aspirational lifestyle that blended ecology and comfort. The result was the award-winning “The Village” community, which set new standards in landscaping, construction quality, and architectural design. It became an icon of the founder’s relentless drive for quality, and one of the high-profile projects that are part of the CEC story today.
Advanced Technology, New Ideas
Ing's vision was one of advanced technology, and he incorporated the cutting-edge civil construction technologies into his projects. This was a radical idea at a time when Taiwan was a developing country and a largely agricultural economy.
From the late 1950s, Ing began working with international partners, initially from the United States. He was the first to introduce technology for prepakt concrete pile used in the construction of Taiwan’s first nuclear reactor. CEC was the first contractor in Taiwan to manufacture concrete masonry blocks using German technology. The company also pioneered the hollow beam technique in building construction, which became a model for the regional construction industry in Asia.
Ing was the first to take the industry beyond Taiwan. Starting in 1964, Ing began working on construction projects in Okinawa, Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and other locations overseas. Since then, CEC has become Taiwan’s leading international construction company, projecting the founder’s original vision to a global landscape.
Within Taiwan, CEC became a vector for new ideas. In 1965, it built Taiwan’s first multiple-story residential complex, Kuang Wu Villa, helping to launch a new concept of urban living and becoming a pioneer in the development of Taipei’s eastern district. In 1975, CEC introduced the Freyssinet prestressing system through a Japanese licensee in the construction of the 1,452-meter Yuanshan Bridge, the longest span, largest surface area, balanced cantilever pre-stressed concrete structure bridge in the world at the time.
Ing, as our founder and chairman of one of Taiwan’s leading companies, became a strong voice representing Taiwan in international construction organizations at a time when Taiwan was diplomatically isolated.
Because of his reputation for integrity as well as his commitment to world-leading technology in civil construction, our founder was invited to serve in leadership roles in industry associations domestically and internationally.
From 1986 to 1988, Ing was the chairman of the International Federation of Asian and Western Pacific Contractors’ Associations (IFAWPCA).
From 1988 to 1989, Ing was president of the International Real Estate Federation (FIABCI). He led the Federation in seeking to raise construction and living standards in developing nations. He donated his own funds to invite the experts from the United Nations to conduct several important studies, including global surveys of low-income housing, housing for the elderly, and the relationship between environmental protection and property development.
From 1991 to 1993, Ing was chairman of the Confederation of International Construction Associations (CICA). CICA members include contractors from the US, Canada, Europe, and Saudi Arabia. During his term of service at CICA, Ing lobbied the construction industry to improve its practices, as well as assisting developing countries in infrastructure construction.
The Mind of A Founder
Founder Ing was a compassionate employer with keen powers of observation. When visiting a potential new market, especially in developing countries with weak data resources, he would conduct his own surveys of living standards, using the price of eggs in the local markets as a benchmark.
Ing cared deeply about living conditions in urban slums, visiting cities in Mexico, Nepal and India to understand the needs of low-income communities, and worked with many of his peers in the construction industry around the world to develop solutions.
Despite his success, Ing was a humble man who wore his US$12.95 Casio watch for more than 20 years. He insisted on keeping a low profile in his personal life.
Our founder passed away on April 27, 1994, at the age of 80, after living a full life and leaving a profound legacy behind both for his company and his nation.
“Construction involves wisdom and perseverance. We create structures that organize time and space. What we do must withstand the test of time and lead to the betterment of mankind.”
Glyn T. H. Ing