Optimistic outlook

Public and private projects are going up around the state

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

Companies are expanding and investing in Virginia, and that’s good news for construction. While some firms build out existing space, others are investing millions of dollars  in new ground-up projects. From data centers to hotels, new corporate headquarters and a contemporary art institute on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University, projects are going up around the state in the private and public sectors.   

The construction industry also is hoping for a post-election bump. President Donald Trump promised during his campaign to invest in America’s infrastructure, employing millions of workers to build highways, bridges, tunnels and airports.

While those cards are yet to be played, more than $1 billion in state funding is expected for road projects in Virginia this year. Plus, activity has picked up in homebuilding as well, so it’s no wonder that Virginia contractors are optimistic about 2017.

“Contractors have relatively high expectations for 2017 as they predict the economy and demands for all types of construction will grow,” Stephen E. Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America said recently in response to an industry outlook survey done by the trade association. 

Forty-two Virginia firms participated in the survey. Asked about higher dollar volumes for projects, they checked off hospitals, public buildings, retail, warehouses and lodging as their top areas for expected growth. 

Yet the industry is not without challenges. Nearly 60 percent of the Virginia contractors reported having a hard time filling salaried and craft-worker positions, and they remain concerned about a continued increase in health-care and regulatory compliance costs.

Another challenge is price hikes for  materials used in construction.  Industry officials worry that any restrictions on the use of imported materials will further increase building costs.

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