Construction industry picks up tempo
Throughout the Truckee Meadows and beyond, the sound of hammers, saws, backhoes, and cranes create the background music for the resurgence of an industry decimated by the Great Recession.
“We are looking at an unprecedented boom in the construction industry,” said Aaron West, CEO of the Nevada Builders Alliance. “We are hearing from our members that they are getting busier and busier, which is a welcome change from the past several years.”
According to the EPIC report, released in September by the Economic Development Authority of Northern Nevada, northwestern Nevada can expect a crescendo in the growth of new jobs leading to a growth in population in the next four years.
The report forecasts the need for 30,000 residential units and more than 30 million square feet of commercial space by 2020 to keep pace with the growth.
The flurry of construction activity suggests the industry is stretching to meet the need.
Matt Clafton, vice president and general manager of Alston Construction, says his company, which specializes in industrial projects, has seen growth of 10 to 15 percent in the past year. Currently, the company is working on a warehouse project in North Valleys, construction in Fernley and other projects.
He’s also noted a “paradigm shift” in commercial construction from build-to-suit projects constructed for a specific tenant, to speculation projects, which are started before an occupant is identified.
In 2013-2014, developers only took on build-to-suit projects, Clafton said. In 2015, “spec projects began to creep in and by the third quarter of 2015, there was a paradigm shift to more spec construction.”
“We’re no longer dipping our toes into the water (of speculation projects). We’re wading in.”
Bill Miles, president and CEO of Carson City-based Miles Construction, also sees significant improvement. With a variety of projects from manufacturing plants in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center to a whiskey distillery in Minden, Miles Construction projects at least a 50 percent increase in business in 2016.
“We are very positive about the future,” Miles said. “We aren’t planning to slow down, and that’s a great thing.”
A variety of construction projects have broken ground with occupancy expected in the coming year.
A few big commercial projects include Dermody Construction’s LogistCenter at 395 Phase 2 in North Valleys. Completion of the first 270,000-square-foot building is expected in May 2016. Eventually, it’s expected to be a 1.6 million-square-foot commercial complex.
East of Sparks in the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, giant multi-year projects are underway for Tesla, Switch and others.
The tempo of residential construction is also picking up.
Peter Lissner, owner of Lifestyle Homes, a family-owned company based in Reno, has a major housing project underway in Cold Springs. He said his company is on track for more than 100 percent growth next year.
“After surviving through ’07 and ’08, it’s nice to see things coming back,” Lissner said. “We try to stay focused and be realistic, but if the projections come true, things are going to get crazy. In a good way.”
Not all projects are on the outskirts of town.
Silverwing Development is finishing up new condominiums and apartments near Virginia Lake, and has broken ground on an apartment complex with some retail at Victorian Square in Sparks.
One of the biggest mixed-use projects expected to break ground in 2016 is Rancharrah.
The historic home of gaming pioneer Bill Harrah, the 141-acre property in south Reno is planned for 691 residential units — a combination of homes, cottages and condos — surrounded by office, retail and dining space, all while maintaining the Harrah mansion and equestrian center for events. Reno Land Development Company is developing the project.
The frenzy of activity is welcome in an industry that lost nearly 72 percent of its jobs in Nevada during the depth of the recession.
However, challenges remain. Lack of skilled construction workers is actually slowing the rate of residential construction.
“All of us in (construction) echo the same thing,” said Alston’s Matt Clafton. “Manpower, first and foremost is our greatest challenge. We didn’t just lose jobs, but we lost people in the industry” who left for other careers.
To help meet the demand, Truckee Meadows Community College, Western Nevada College and construction organization apprenticeships are ramping up to bring training and education to increase the skilled labor pool. The problem, said West, is that the workforce is needed now. That means recruiting construction workers from out of state.
“Once we can fuel the pipeline for a much-needed construction workforce, we will provide a stabilized base from which our industry can grow,” West said.
Clafton noted that the construction industry is stronger than before the recession.
“There’s still a little bit of caution, not a Gold Rush with everyone running out and staking claims,” he said.
The Nevada Building Association contributed to this story.
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