For the region’s specialty firms, the song remains the same, although the chorus has gotten louder. And at least for the near future, most industry leaders say it has nothing to do with the state of the economy.
“The economy continues to grow and expand, interest rates remain low, and confidence remains high among both consumers and businesses,” says Mark M. Latimer, president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors’ Rocky Mountain chapter.
“With the population expected to double along the Wasatch Front before 2040, the construction market will continue to boom here in Utah. Big civil and transportation projects, the ongoing billion-dollar-plus expansion of Salt Lake International Airport and the state prison relocation will keep the Utah construction market moving at a fast pace,” says Chris DeHerrera, president and CEO of ABC Utah.
Indeed, with only a few exceptions, construction markets in the region’s major metro areas are healthy. Boise, Salt Lake City, Denver and most of the cities along Colorado’s Front Range are forecast to sustain or increase their market sectors in 2018, with growth averaging between 3% and 5%, according to Dodge Data & Analytics and other industry forecasts.
“Our key concern remains the shortage of a skilled labor force to support the pace of construction, which could hinder growth if not corrected,” DeHerrera adds.
In Colorado, construction employment has remained steady—at 160,000 employees—for the past 18 months, even as the value of building has grown. That’s because there aren’t enough qualified people to hire, according to a recent economic report from the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder.
“Combine the labor shortage with a construction economy that is building at a frantic pace and the need for labor is the talk [of] most construction offices and industry events,” says Debra L. Scifo, American Subcontractors Association of Colorado executive director.
“Recruitment efforts are hitting an all-time high within companies, trades and disciplines,” Scifo says. “And we need to keep those efforts going.”