Advertisement
  1. Business

Optimistic 2018 construction forecast tempered by worker shortage

The construction industry is expected to continue to grow in 2018, but Florida construction firms face issues of worker shortages and outside competition. Pictured are construction workers at the Duke Energy Florida natural gas plant in Crystal River. [MONICA HERNDON | Times file photo]
Published Jan. 3, 2018

Month after month, one of the brightest spots on already-sunny employment reports has been construction figures. The industry is well on its way to recovering from the massive hit it took with the 2008 recession. And with significant development going on around the state — and a handful of multi-million- and billion-dollar projects in Tampa Bay alone — industry experts anticipate a strong year for the field.

"Construction firms appear to be very optimistic about 2018 as they expect demand for all types of construction services to continue to expand," Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the trade group Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), said during an industry outlook discussion Wednesday afternoon.

Tampa Bay has become a hub of construction in recent years, home to major ongoing and upcoming developments. Water Street Tampa, the $3 billion downtown transformation led by philanthropist Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment, is underway, and Nova Southeastern University's new multi-million-dollar Clearwater campus, funded by philanthropist Kiran Patel, is set to begin construction this year.

Projects like these are part of the reason construction added the most jobs over the year in Florida — 41,800 — as of November, the most recent employment figures from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. And that number may grow in 2018, as 75 percent of construction companies expect to hire in the coming year, according to AGC.

Related coverage: Florida jobs recover from Irma, unemployment rate drops>

Nationally, commercial construction spending hit $719.2 billion in November, up just under a percent from October, according to builders and contractors group.

But it won't be completely smooth sailing. A major issue Florida construction faces this year is the performance of its current workforce. Many construction employees today lack the experience and training that past generations had, which requires more on-the-job instruction. This can delay projects and even cause safety issues.

"There's a lot more training that's going on as far as keeping (workers) safe and the public safe," said Bob Schafer, president of West Palm Beach's Ranger Construction. Schafer spoke on the Associated General Contractors of America's call.

The root of the issue isn't new — during the 2008 recession, many construction workers abandoned the field for more stable work, never returning. This left a gap in the workforce that the industry is still working to remedy.

Exacerbating that worker shortage, Schafer said, is competition from foreign businesses. Schafer's firm has noticed foreign construction outfits moving into the local construction space recently. Those firms will need to hire workers, which will further stretch the pool of available qualified workers.

"It's adding to the workforce shortage we have," Schafer said.

Contact Malena Carollo at mcarollo@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  2. Snack-focused delivery app GoPuff launched in Tampa in February. It serves the area surrounding the University of South Florida. GoPuff
    Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or Funyuns? GoPuff says it has the data for which snack Floridians love the most.
  3. "House Hunters," shot at a home in the Bayshore Beautiful area.  (Times | 2007) Tampa Tribune
    Whang, 57, was also a comedian and actress.
  4. The city is accepting applications for its Commercial Revitalization Program. The city has allocated $175,000 for the program this year.
  5. The Walmart supercenter at 990 Missouri Ave. faced fines in December for these storage containers in the parking lot. City officials are debating whether to make a short-term arrangement with the city two’s Largo stores this year so they can store their holiday inventory. City of Largo
    In the end, city commissioners say yes, with some reservations.
  6. More construction is on the way to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, thanks to $19.75 million in Federal Aviation Administration grants to rehabilitate the airport’s runway. (Times file photo)
    The work is expected to be complete by spring 2021.
  7. Job applicants seek information about temporary positions available with the 2020 Census, during a job fair in Miami on Wednesday designed for people fifty years or older. LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP
    The state added 22,500 jobs in August.
  8. Homeowner Cheryl Murdoch, 59, explains the workings of the Philips Smart Mirror in her bathroom. Murdoch and her husband live in the Epperson neighborhood in Wesley Chapel, home of the Crystal Lagoon, where some residents are piloting new health technologies inside their homes. SCOTT KEELER  |   Times
    In Pasco’s Crystal Lagoon community, AdventHealth and Metro Development Group are testing in-home technology aimed at keeping people away from the hospital.
  9. A company called Flock Safety is selling automatic license plate readers to neighborhood associations to cut down on crime, and Tampa neighborhood Paddock Oaks is one of their customers. Pictured is a Flock camera on Paddock Oaks Dr. | [Luis Santana | Times] LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Atlanta-based Flock Safety has provided 14 area communities with high-speed, high-definition cameras for surveillance.
  10. An American Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft approaches Miami International Airport for landing in March. Bloomberg
    The 60-year-old veteran airline employee told investigators he was upset that union contract negotiations had stalled.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement