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Some construction sectors showing turnaround

THURSDAY, FEB. 10, 2011

“I’m just glad to be working,” said Landon Weichal, of Ginno Construction, on Wednesday. Ginno Construction is working on the former Coeur d’Alene Brewing Co. in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka)
“I’m just glad to be working,” said Landon Weichal, of Ginno Construction, on Wednesday. Ginno Construction is working on the former Coeur d’Alene Brewing Co. in Coeur d’Alene. (Kathy Plonka)

Most companies approaching year with caution

Construction activity in Kootenai County plunged in 2010 and improved in Spokane County, but industry officials said Wednesday that moving forward in 2011 will be difficult.

McGraw-Hill Construction, which monitors the building industry, reported the total value of permits issued by Kootenai County in 2010 was $132.8 million, off 56 percent from 2009. Permits for single- and multifamily residential projects fell 34 percent to $109.4 million, nonresidential 83 percent to $23.3 million.

In December, permits for nonresidential construction were worth $150,000.

Spokane County permits increased in value to $478.8 million, a 19 percent gain over 2009.

Residential construction grew 41 percent, to $250.1 million, nonresidential two percent, to $228.6 million.

But much of the value for nonresidential permits could be traced to a single project: the Spokane County wastewater treatment plant, said Roger Flint, who heads the Spokane office of the CH2M Hill Inc., which was hired to design, build and operate the plant.

He said permits for much of the work on that $140 million project were taken out in 2010.

Contracts for that project and other government-funded work accounted for the bulk of nonresidential activity in 2010, Flint said, but some of CH2M Hill’s industrial clients are starting to position projects for possible groundbreaking this year.

“There are a lot of projects that are ready to go that people want to do,” he said.

David Kliewer, J-U-B Engineers Inc. area manager, believes construction will suffer if funds for government projects are used to close budget gaps. The small firm does projects up to about $5 million.

“Normal funding levels are being challenged,” Kliewer said. “It feels fairly bleak.”

He said 2009 numbers were somewhat inflated by projects funded with federal stimulus money that will not be available this year.

“There hasn’t been a lot of private work,” said Walker Construction President Tom Hansen.

He said Walker made do on school and low-income housing projects in 2010. More activity had been expected during the second half of the year by industry officials, but the turnaround did not come, he said.

Hansen said he is “cautiously hopeful” for 2011 based on a flurry of action in January and so far in February.

McGraw-Hill said total construction starts nationwide fell two percent in 2010 compared with 2009, a year in which activity fell 24 percent from 2008.



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