Construction job stats paint optimistic future

WEIRTON – As the year winds down, the area has a statistic in its pocket to build upon, literally, for 2016. The Steubenville-Weirton Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Brooke, Hancock and Jefferson counties, has sutained leadership in construction jobs, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. The group said its statistics show that while construction was declining in 153 metropolitan areas from August 2014 to August 2015, Steubenville-Weirton was leading the growth list with the Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, Colo., area. Article Photos OHIO PROJECT — Economic development projects underway in the area include the hotel and commercial work being led by the Franciscan University of Steubenville, along University Boulevard in Steubenville and shown here during construction earlier this summer. — Dave Gossett   While Denver and its environs reported adding 10,400 construction jobs during the period for 11 percent growth, Steubenville-Weirton added 500 construction jobs and reported 28 percent growth. The news gets even bigger matching the period from November 2014 to November 2015, where the area was part of growth in construction jobs in 190 out of 258 metropolitan areas. Steubenville-Weirton added 800 jobs during the period, a 50 percent job growth, and ranked on percentage growth ahead of construction job leader New York City and the Denver metro area. Pat Ford, executive director of the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, said the continued leadership in construction job growth for the area looking back for 15 months shows that a sustained growth is occurring. “While there are a lot of areas of the country that don't see these kinds of numbers, it's exciting to look at the laundry list of construction happening in our metropolitan area,” Ford said. “Equally, the availability of our workforce means work gets done. We have an available, qualified workforce.” The availability of a good pool of workers is important to sustained construction job growth, according to Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “Depending on the type of work they perform, contractors either can't find enough work for their people or can't hire enough workers for their projects,” he noted in the August construction jobs report. Ford recited a long list of work stretched among the three counties, from the construction of the new Hancock County Chrysler campus in northern Hancock County to the refurbishing of a former fire station into a Domino's sit-down-style restaurant in Weirton; from the refurbishing of the old Wheeling Corrugating steel plant into a multi-tenant industrial facility south of Beech Bottom to the construction of a trucking terminal at the Three Springs Industrial Park and an expansion at Eagle Manufacturing in Wellsburg. He also noted the intallation of a $2 million, 9,800 square-foot smokers facility at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort; the new $1.6 million Barney's Bakery project in Weirton, the planned restaurant and office park expansion at the Village at Colliers Way by developer and investor Mike Chek, and a retail and office park under construction at the old Wal-Mart site off U.S. Route 22 at Three Springs Drive. On the Ohio side, economic development underway includes the hotel and commercial development being led by the Franciscan University of Steubenville along University Boulevard in Steubenville and a massive tank farm being built along the Ohio River to service the burgeoning gas energy industry, north of Toronto. Numerous major highway projects have taken place in Jefferson County, too, during the reporting period. Ford noted that a coalition grant application for enivironmental refurbishing of former industrial and commercial sites in the region could mean the area will be able to sustain construction growth, if the grant is approved. “It all dovetails with the grant application by the BDC and the Jefferson County Port Authority and the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission. The demand, obviously, is associated with having available inventory of sites,” Ford said. “We're running out of it during this peak construction period, but that bodes well for the foresight of all the elected officials who asked our respective economic development agencies to apply for the grant. If it's awarded, we will be queuing up additional properties to create additional inventory for even more construction activity that could sustain us for another three years,” he said.

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