Trump hope fuels momentum for Georgia construction jobs to grow in 2017

Construction continues at Avalon a mixed-use development in Alpharetta, GA. Wednesday, December 07, 2016. Avalon’s Phase II Retail Grand Opening is scheduled for April 14, 2017. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

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Construction continues at Avalon a mixed-use development in Alpharetta, GA. Wednesday, December 07, 2016. Avalon’s Phase II Retail Grand Opening is scheduled for April 14, 2017. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Contractors expect this to be a good year for construction with robust demand for building in both public and private sectors and Georgia will rise with the tide, according to participants in an industry conference.

Optimism about a new Republican administration mixes with a bullish outlook in general on the economy.

The incoming Trump Administration can boost an already solid economy by promoting investments in infrastructure while cutting regulations that slow down or hamper projects, said Stephen Sandherr, chief executive of Associated General Contractors of America, by phone today.

“I would say 2017 promises to be a good year,” he said.

However, he warned against “irrational exuberance” among business people anticipating a massive surge of projects in the next few months.

Trump referred frequently during the campaign to the need for infrastructure improvement. However, he was not specific about how it would be funded. And moreover, virtually no Congress members made massive investment part of their campaigns.

“Getting a big infrastructure package through the Congress would be a major undertaking,” he said.

Construction was one of the sectors hit hardest in metro Atlanta during the recession as building ground to a halt. But the sector has been strong in metro Atlanta since the end of the recession and employment has grown steadily in the sector.

Demand for construction in Georgia will be led this year mostly by demand for retail space, warehouses and distribution centers – as well as the work spurred by multi-billion dollar improvements of the seaport in Savannah and the airport in Atlanta, said Kenneth Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors.

The AGC together with Sage Construction issued a report on the year's prospects, which is available here.

However, many laborers moved to other industries during the recession – or retired.

So contractors believe one of the biggest challenges is the lack of good workers, Simonson said. “Our survey shows 73 percent of contractors are having a hard time finding qualified workers.”

That particular assertion has been contested by union officials – at least in metro Atlanta – who say the shortage is sometimes more about finding skilled labor at sub-union wages.

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Georgia construction sector

Number of workers in Nov. 2012: 141,500

Number of workers in Nov. 2016: 179,300

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics