Looking for a construction rebound

Building official sees permits returning to normal about $80 million in 2002

— Just three building permits were issued in the city during the month of February, and one of those was for a demolition. But the head of the local building department foresees a return to "normalcy," during the 2002 construction season.

Mark Marchus said he projects that the dollar value of projects permitted by his office during the 2002 construction season will reach $80 million compared to $114 million in 2001.

"We're going to return to a 1997 kind of construction activity," Marchus said. "I don't see us going into a recession, I see it as a return to normalcy. There are still a lot of people who would like to buy a home and live here."

Marchus' office permitted projects valued at $79 million in 1997. That level of construction activity is in stark contrast to 1998, when large projects like Yampa Valley Medical Center, a new condominium tower on the Sheraton hotel and the high school remodeling pushed construction activity in Steamboat Springs to a record $204 million.

January and February are typically slow months for new building permits here, but in recent years, the number of permits issued in Steamboat in any month ranges from nine to 12.

The two construction permits issued here in February are accounted for by a single duplex valued at $393,770. February activity for Routt County, outside Steamboat Springs, was a little more active.

The building department issued five permits, including three single-family homes with an aggregate value of $744,746, and a single duplex (two permits) valued at $576,716.

Year to date construction valuation through February, for both the city and county stands at $9.68 million. That compares to $12.87 million at the same time last year.

Marchus said Steamboat typically represents 50 percent of the county's home building market.

The retrenchment in the construction industry means fewer jobs in that field, Marchus pointed out.

"When we were in this big boom cycle, we had a lot of trades people coming here. Unfortunately, we don't have jobs for all these people."

The Steamboat office of the Colorado Workforce Center has seen very little activity related to the construction industry this winter, whether it be interest from job seekers or employers posting new job openings.

"There were quite a few layoffs in January," Pat Bonny said. "Fifteen years ago we saw winter layoffs. We haven't seen that again until this year."

She is an employment specialist at the Workforce Center.

Bonny believes that the current economic climate did not warrant the additional expense associated with continuing construction right through Steamboat's winter weather. That resulted in the layoffs. However, contractors are not likely to post jobs at her office as they begin to rehire this spring. Instead, they simply draw upon the pool of tradesmen they were forced to lay off last winter.

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