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Construction on the rise in Rowan and across the nation

Construction in Rowan County, and the nation, is on the rise — a good sign for the economy.

When the economy crashed in 2008, one of the hardest hit sectors was construction. With people unable to get loans and companies hoarding their cash, construction work slowed dramatically. But in recent years, as the recovery has gained traction, construction work has increased substantially.

In North Carolina, construction was one of the fastest growing sectors in 2014 and is expected to be so again in 2015. The sector pumped $16 billion into the state’s economy last year.

Construction jobs are used has an eyeball test for the health of an economy because they pay decent wages and contribute directly to local economies — crews breaking for lunch and heading to the local deli for food is a common example used to show how construction work supports other jobs.

In December, 48,000 construction jobs were added across the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the total amount of new construction jobs added last year, 290,000, was a nine-year high. The total number of people employed in construction work in December was slightly more than 6 million — the highest since March 2009.

In Rowan County, the number of permits issued for new home construction nearly doubled from 2011 to 2013, according to records kept by the county’s Building Code Enforcement Department. In 2011, 84 permits, with a total value of $20.2 million, were issued. In 2013, 162 permits were issued and the total value was $40.7 million.

And the trend continued in 2014 with 179 permits, totaling $60.6 million, issued.

Those figures are for new homes only and don’t include things like additions, remodels or new apartment complexes. Last year, permits for residential additions totaled $2.6 million and remodels totaled just over $4 million.

Construction on new commercial buildings, like an office or manufacturing plant, is gaining speed too. The number of permits issued in 2011 was 23, valued at $11 million. The figures jumped to 32 and $18 million  in 2012 — including $7 million worth of work on the Courtyard Marriott hotel in Salisbury.

In 2013, construction at the Gildan Yarns plant on Heilig Road began. The value of that work alone was $60 million, which pushed the annual total for permits issued that year to $87 million.

Near the end of 2013, Gildan announced plans to expand operations in the county.

In 2014, 32 permits were issued totaling $31.8 million. The total dollar amount is higher than 2013 when the Gildan project isn’t included.

This year is starting off on a high note for the county with work at the new retail complex in the Summit Corporate Center underway along with the Agility Fuel Systems plant being built nearby.

Agility makes natural-gas fuel systems for large transport vehicles and the company said it plans to hire 150 workers in the first three years and could eventually have more than 250 employees at the facility.

Also, a Holiday Inn Express is set to be built near the Courtyard hotel at the Innes Street exit of Interstate 85.

Municipal and county officials have expressed their desire to make economic development a top priority. The new county Board of Commissioners is taking the lead by forming an economic advisory team to scout the economy and inform county leaders about opportunities.

There also seems to be a new willingness for cooperation between the county and municipal governments.

Economist Eric Hake, a professor at Catawba College, told members of the county’s Chamber of Commerce Thursday that there has been a series of “false starts” in the nation’s economic recovery.

Hopefully, officials won’t call a penalty on the current trend of growth.

Contact Reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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