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  • 22 Jun 2017 11:47 AM | Anonymous

    How Veterans Florida Helps Employers

    Every business has a need for a talented workforce and today’s veterans are a great fit for any company looking for hard-working, intelligent men and women with a unique mission-focused attitude.

    Veterans Florida is here to help your business recruit, hire and train America’s best talent resource, our veterans.

    Whether you are hiring your first veteran or you are a seasoned veteran-friendly employer, we can help you:

    • Understand why veterans make great employees
    • Tailor your job descriptions to attract veterans
    • Learn about the financial incentives and benefits available to businesses who hire veterans
    • Post your job announcements to our veteran-only audience
    • Create targeted advertising campaigns to highlight your company
    • Reach veterans through career fairs and hiring events


  • 22 Jun 2017 11:44 AM | Anonymous

    BGE, Inc. announced the opening of our first office in Florida, located in Sarasota. This expansion allows BGE to better serve existing clients with a national presence and offers new clients the opportunity to experience our service-centered approach to solving engineering challenges in the Florida region. Mike Bell, PE, who recently joined BGE as Vice President, will lead our Florida operations from Sarasota.

    Bell has been an active member of the GCBX for almost 25 years including his various positions with various Committees, the Board of Directors, and the 1999 GCBX Chairman.

    BGE’s office is located at 551 N. Cattlemen Road in Sarasota. Wherever BGE has offices, we focus on good corporate citizenship by making a difference not only through our professional services but also by our community service and involvement. BGE is excited to be involved with the Sarasota-Manatee community while supporting the exceptional vision and mission of the GCBX and the construction industry.

    Established in 1975, BGE, Inc. provides civil engineering and environmental services in Texas, Arkansas, and Florida. BGE is currently ranked # 142 in ENR’s top 500 engineering firms.


  • 03 Jun 2017 10:54 AM | Anonymous

    Diverging Diamond Sparkles

    By now, I’ve driven through our new diverging diamond at University Parkway and Interstate-75 about 30 times. Only once have I been among the first drivers at the light just before the diamond actually diverges, and it is at that point that you realize how truly innovative the design is. As I passed by other drivers stopped at the light on the other side but aimed directly at me, I realized how extraordinary it is that this intricate road system opened and continues to operate pretty much without a hitch.

    But to really appreciate it, you have to go back in time just a bit. My time here dates back to the days when I-75 was being built around 1981. Honore Avenue was a dirt road, and only cows and farmland greeted the brave souls that ventured northeast of University. Since that undertaking, the diverging diamond is one of the largest projects I’ve seen. We have certainly experienced a huge transformation in our region that continues as hundreds of thousands of people move here each year.

    Located between Manatee and Sarasota counties, Florida’s first diverging diamond opened on May 21—ahead of schedule and after a major rain storm. Other than some minor inconveniences when the exit lanes would change, for such a large construction project, it really went quite well. There were no major holdups or hazardous debris for drivers. With the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange offices located right off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, I’ve personally driven through the construction, and while there were some interesting moments, it’s been pretty cool to witness this massive conversion.

    It was with great pride that I witnessed our new infrastructure going in, knowing that it took an enormous collaborative effort that will benefit drivers, tourists and residents for many years to come. The project is a testament to both the Manatee County and Sarasota County Commissions who partnered on this $74.5-million federally funded project. State Sen. Greg Steube and Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh lobbied fiercely for this initiative in Tallahassee, and I would definitely call this as a major win for our region.

    It was also a success because it provided so many construction jobs—around 750 total.

    The largest in the U.S., this diverging diamond will become a model for others in the state—with more to be developed at intersections throughout Florida. All of this transportation planning is not only important for our residents but also for businesses, especially those with service trucks on the road. Patrons to these businesses expect services prompt and on time. No one likes waiting around for a late A/C or plumbing contractor, after all.

    There is not, nor should there be, a stop sign at the border for those hundreds of thousands of people flocking to Florida each year. As a proactive and forward-thinking community, it is crucial to provide infrastructure like this to support our growth. Think about that the next time you diverge on our new diamond. Oh—and also, please stay in your lane!

    By Mary Dougherty -  Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.


  • 13 Mar 2017 9:58 AM | Anonymous

    Builder Promotes Longtime Employee to Project Manager

    The commercial construction firm Jon F. Swift Construction recently promoted Justin Williams to project manager. Williams joined Swift in 2007 as a superintendent and advanced to the role of assistant project manager. As project manager, he will oversee large scale new construction and renovation projects such as the Family Life Center for Church of the Palms and the buildout for Sabal Palm Bank’s downtown Sarasota location.

  • 10 Mar 2017 11:16 AM | Albani Gustason (Administrator)

    Big League Development

    GCBX

    BY MARY DOUGHERTY SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY MAR 4, 2017

    We all know the words to that famous song, “Take me out to the ball game, take me out to the crowd.” And I can almost smell the peanuts and Cracker Jacks as Sarasota’s spring training season swings into high gear. As a New Yorker at heart, my loyalty lies with the Mets, but I must admit, it’s the Braves that have me becoming a raving fan these days.

    More recently, I have lived in South Sarasota County—since 1979 to be exact. Our area has seen steady growth since then and promises more to come. In fact, in 2008, North Port became the city with the largest population within Sarasota County. Some of the lowest impact fees and utility and land costs in Southwest Florida have undoubtedly contributed to this economic development.

    Even with the positive growth we’ve seen over the years in South County, the proposed project for the Atlanta Braves Spring Training and Academy Facilities may be one of the biggest game-changers our region has ever experienced. In 2019, we will hopefully see 70 acres of pastureland in the West Villages, an emerging master-planned community in South County, transformed into a multimillion-dollar facility.

    There are a number of players involved here. The Atlanta Braves, the primary lessee, are expected to contribute an estimated $7.5 million initial investment and another $5.6 million toward facility maintenance for the Major League baseball club's proposed project. The Braves would sign a 30-year initial lease with two 5-year options, with annual lease payments estimated between $2 million and $2.5 million. On top of that, the Atlanta Braves Academy is proposing a year-round sports rehabilitation and player development facility at around $8 million to $10 million and a Community Public Park and Plaza for entertainment, farmers market and events. A multi-purpose sports facility for community use is also being planned with the benefit of overflow parking for the stadium.

    Other partners on this project include Sarasota County, the ultimate facility owner and lessor; City of North Port, the local community funding partner and host city; West Villages Improvement District, the local funding conduit; and Manasota Beach Ranchlands, the private sector funding and development partner.

    Through this plan, the Tourism Bed Tax funds would be utilized, and the county’s contribution would equal around $22 million. The state, City of North Port and the West Villages also intend to provide funds to support the plan. Locally, Visit Sarasota County has endorsed the proposed budget model along with the county's Tourist Development Council.

    The West Villages, a Keystone member of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, has already committed to utilize local contractors whenever and wherever possible during this process. This is great news for the local economy and means more construction jobs for local contractors.

    This is a significant and an advantageous development for our region, one that could further bolster South County and set it on the path for future success. I applaud the elected officials for coming together on this exciting project, and I encourage them to stay the course through its successful completion. The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange endorses this economic development plan that we see as a home run for the region.

    Mary Doughtery is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.


  • 03 Dec 2016 6:24 PM | Anonymous

    All Politics Is Local

    BY MARY DOUGHERTY SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY DEC 3, 2016

    Tip O’Neil once said, “All politics is local.” As the country is still reeling from one of the most contentious national elections in our nation’s history, this is an important point to remember. While what happens on the federal level is important and many policy trends do eventually trickle down to the local level, the ins and outs of our daily lives are mostly dominated by leaders elected locally. Issues like education, transportation, infrastructure and growth affect us in almost every aspect of our lives as we live and work, raise families and support the local economy. Here in Sarasota, I believe the stars have aligned for great prosperity over the next few years—driven mainly by proactive, forward-thinking leaders at the helm of some of our most vital organizations influencing the local business climate.

    At the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, our membership is laser-focused on enhancing the local business climate to improve economic development and the construction industry—an industry that is the backbone of our local economy. Beaches and culture are wonderful tourism drivers but renovations, build outs and new construction, paired with repairing and building new roads and adding to our top-rated schools, are the keys to creating a long-term and sustainable economy. Our membership, which has shown healthy growth over the past five years, is dedicated to sustaining a strong economy for construction tradesmen and women that can survive through volatile national economical cycles. It is a strong local economy that will create a rising tide for all of us who live and work here, and help attract and retain a quality work force.

    Additionally, Sarasota right now has a strong group of business associations with solid and involved members looking to tackle issues critical to our local economy like affordable housing, transportation and education. These issues, if tackled together, can build strong communities long into the future. We are lucky to have leaders like Kevin Cooper, a long-time community advocate with institutional knowledge of our history, at the helm of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and former Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson taking the lead at The Argus Foundation. As we enter an unprecedented growth period in Sarasota, members of those organizations will offer critical perspectives and insight into analyzing issues like the comprehensive plan, the 2050 plan, a unified development code and land development regulations.

    Furthermore, the Coalition of Business Associations, the umbrella organization for many of our local business groups, will serve an important role in unifying our plans for the future.

    Lets work together to create a strong future for Sarasota so that we win awards for more than our fabulous beaches and tourism attractions. Let’s make Sarasota a place that businesses want to come to grow and hire workers with good paying and quality jobs. So the next time you are tempted to lament over the national political climate, remember that here at the local level, we are poised for great things.

    Mary Dougherty is executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.

    LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE

  • 01 Sep 2016 6:26 PM | Anonymous

    Casting Lures

    SEPTEMBER 2016 BY JACOB OGLES 

    It was just 2010 when Sarasota County voters, deep in the throes of a recession, voted to tax themselves to fund a business incentive program in hopes of luring employers to the region. While incentives have always been somewhat controversial, a measure backed by area business organizations passed with 67 percent of the vote. Gathered at the Sarasota Ale House on Bee Ridge Road, leaders from area chambers and the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County celebrated the election returns and dreamt of a diverse economy, one where not everyone’s livelihood depended upon dramatic cycles in housing and tourism.

    “Incentives can make a difference of invest,emt in jobs coming your way or somewhere else,” says Steve Queior, president of the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce. Voters, he says, understood then that a cut in property taxes for a firm that would physically expand its presence on the Gulf Coast likely meant a return worth far more down the line thanks to sales tax revenue and positive growth in jobs and property value. And of course, discretion would be used to make sure the companies benefitting added dimension to the local economy, boosting underrepresented industry sectors like light manufacturing and high-tech.

    But jump six eventful years later to the present day to hear an entirely different conversation about incentives consuming discourse at a Sarasota County Commission meeting. An incentives package designed to lure North American Roofing into the region, a plan that already had the support of state leaders and of the same business groups who successfully lobbied for the expansion of incentives programs here, was labeled corporate welfare. The controversy prompted Sarasota County Commissioners to take the unusual and unprecedented step of denying an incentives package negotiated by economic development officials. In the wake of this debate, the use of public incentives, once widely popular if not absent any dissent, suddenly seems a question resolved too early. Does the public still support the use of tax breaks of any sort to create jobs in the region? When should such a tool be employed? Economic development leaders maintain that if no incentives were available at all, Sarasota and the Gulf Coast couldn’t even earn shots at attracting good employers to the region and might even be challenged to keep successful companies founded in the region.

    Mark Huey, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, says few companies considering relocation to Southwest Florida start the conversation by demanding a tax offer. The top two questions posed to economic development officials, he says, have to do with the existing workforce already living here or with the availability of the right kind of real estate. Incentives don’t become a major conversation until a company puts Sarasota on its “short list” and prepares to make a final decision where to move. It serves, if you will, as a tie-breaker. But that doesn’t mean the topic only comes up during eleventh-hour negotiations. Companies usually confirm programs exist before they take a serious look at moving. “At the very beginning they will verify we have competitive incentives,” Huey says. “If the answer is that you don’t have any, then you don’t even get in the game.” To be clear, Sarasota has several different types of incentives to offer, not all of which get funded exclusively with local taxes.

    “The reality in America currently is that incentives don’t put you on the selection list for an expansion or relocation that creates jobs,” says Queior. “Other things put you on the list. But think of a sequential tree.” Workforce quality, proper markets, transportation access and cost of living will all play into a company decision more prominently than incentives. But at the end of the day, a community with no incentives programs won’t be competitive in attracting jobs.

    But should that be how the game is played? Some critics have lamented incentives for years. Land-use attorney Dan Lobeck consistently criticizes incentives as problematic giveaways to companies that cost long-time residents and favor certain private sector players above others. Even success stories like the Tervis Tumbler and PGT Industries expansions, both for companies that have operated in Sarasota for years and have bounced back from the recession strong thanks to expansion strategies, seem to Lobeck like creating new jobs that would have come anyway. “Incentives are not what made the final decision,” he says.

    And it’s not just anti-growth voices that question the use of the tool. Kerry Kirschner, the recently retired executive director of the Argus Foundation, always becomes skeptical when incentives are considered. As the broader community considered incentives for a Jackson Labs project five years ago, Kirschner’s organization was opposed. “The whole philosophy is flawed in a community like ours,” Kirschner says. “What we have to offer is environment and the arts, we don’t have to give away things.” The Jackson Labs deal fell through when the state opted not to offer any incentives.

    But despite community offerings in the region that draw immense wealth into town, conditions for workers in Sarasota still lag behind many parts of the nation. Median earnings for Sarasota residents in 2014 were $28,473, below the national average of $30,845. And the average private sector salary of $39,900 that year was below both the state average ($43,600) and national average ($50,300).

    The top argument in favor of incentives, in Florida at least, usually boils down to a lack of diversification in the economy. Sarasota for the past 30 years has seen the bulk of local jobs created within a few industries—tourism, construction, government—but those fields tend to go through economic cycles concurrently, leaving the region’s commerce subject to exaggerated ebbs and flows. Over the past five years, economic development officials frequently boasted success in diversification efforts. Manufacturing jobs in the county went up 62 percent between 2010 and 2015, and professional and business services jumped 48 percent. Staple industries grew as well, with hospitality up 21 percent and construction up 37 percent, and the state-measured Industry Diversity Index still shows Sarasota with a slightly less diverse economy than the state as a whole (0.86 compared to 0.87).

    The question of what constitutes diversity, though, seems to be what recently thrust the region into newfound uncertainty about the merits of incentives. Mary Dougherty, executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, began to ponder the entire practice of incentives when the economic development officials tried to lure North American Roofing to the region. A negotiated deal would have required Sarasota County to contribute $216,000 toward a $1.08-million Qualified Targeted Industry (QTI) tax refund incentive offered by the state as well as a $504,000 economic development incentive grant to assist in relocation expenses. “This industry is already experiencing work shortages,” she says. “To bring a company to compete with an already strained workforce doesn’t make sense.”

    But the state considers any sort of national headquarters to be a solid move toward diversification. Sean Helton, Enterprise Florida vice president of communications, says incentives typically get directed toward industries like aerospace or light manufacturing, but can be offered for any type of company considering locating its headquarters here. “Corporate headquarters typically have very well-paying jobs,” Helton says. “It helps to diversify the economy, and it also sends a good message to other businesses around the country.”

    Consultants hired by North American to negotiate a deal stressed that it was only corporate functions considering a move to the region. “I cannot reiterate enough that this is a potential headquarters relocation project and not a roofing installation group looking to compete for roofing,” says Rob Sitterley, principal at Merit Advisors and one of the consultants who negotiated the North American Roofing package. Additionally, the company committed it would not compete for local employees or roofing jobs. But an outcry from roofing companies founded in the region—without incentives—ultimately led Sarasota County Commissioners to vote against offering a deal.

    A greater long-term issue than whether or not that company comes here may be that many business leaders now question if incentives have become too dicey an issue, and whether any should be offered at all. “In my organization, honestly that is where the conversation is going,” says Dougherty.

    Local leaders point out the biggest factor in the North American package was the state QTI standards. Rather than just targeted industries like manufacturing or biotech, the state views every corporate headquarters as a chance to boost the state economy. Helton, for example, says the state would never consider incentives to open a Ramada or Hyatt location in a state rich with resorts—unless the company was talking about relocating its corporate headquarters.

    County Incentives

    Sarasota County maintains an incentive fund that can pay a company up to $5,000 per new job during relocations or expansions of existing businesses. The property tax incentives approved in 2010 can be offered on up to 10 years of taxes on real and tangible property. A Qualified Target Industry tax offered statewide through Enterprise Florida can refund up to $5 million in taxes for companies creating high-paying jobs (provided a local jurisdiction approves a local match as well). Additionally, Sarasota County has programs for rapid permitting and workforce training offered as incentives to companies considering a move or expansion.

    LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE

  • 01 Aug 2016 6:29 PM | Anonymous

    Confidence in Sarasota County

    By Mary Dougherty, Guest Columnist

    Trust in our local county leaders reached its highest mark in 2015, according to the latest Sarasota County citizen survey. This illustrates that citizens trust Sarasota County government leaders more (at 51 percent) than state or federal government leaders - a pattern that has been consistent.

    Sarasota County residents trust our commissioners now more than they ever have in the last 20 years. I'd like to congratulate the Sarasota County Commission on earning that trust. This trust translates into confidence in their decision-making, and particularly the recent decision to transmit the recent changes to the comprehensive plan to the state for review, as referenced in the July 6 article, "County comprehensive plan update approved." For the next 10 years, this document will guide how county planners will address quality of life, environmental, transportation, health, utilities and land-use issues.

    We need to support our local leaders in making changes that will ensure we have the roadways, shopping, dining and neighborhoods to support our growth. They will be making those hard smart-growth choices that will benefit our region for years and years to come.

    It's a delicate balance. We must also have the confidence that our county commissioners will maintain our natural resources. To ensure that these assets are the most pristine, while at the same time providing infrastructure and amenities for hundreds of thousands of people who move here every year. Smart planning now - paired with common-sense development - will protect our community for the future and continue to provide resources for people who live here.

    That's a lot of pressure. Thankfully, there was a lot of citizen input on this comprehensive plan as well. Several members of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange worked with others in the business community and provided their expertise, time and talents to incorporate smart-growth concepts to ensure Sarasota is a business-friendly community for future generations.

    The members of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange live, work and play in this community. They have built their businesses here and built the community we are proud to call home. They are employers, employees, neighbors, friends and citizens in the community. Our members are engaged and share a long-term vision for the future of our community, and like our members, the community is also engaged in this process.

    LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE

  • 25 Jul 2016 6:31 PM | Anonymous

    Construction companies struggle to find enough skilled workers

    Low wages and exodus after housing crash are taking their toll

    By John Hielscher john.hielscher@heraldtribune.com

    Home building is back in Southwest Florida, and so are thousands of new construction jobs.

    But some residential builders say they continue to have trouble finding construction workers for their job sites - and the demand for those workers is expected to keep growing.

    "It's a huge daily challenge, no question about it," said Michael Storey, president of Neal Communities, the region's largest locally based home builder. "And it's not only a quantity issue, it's a quality issue as well. Finding skilled workers makes the equation even more difficult."

    The subcontractors who perform most of the labor at constructions sites - from carpenters to plumbers to drywall installers - have reported labor shortages for some time. One report said 80 percent of the nation's builders have labor woes, and more are seeing delays as they wait for crews to get to jobs.

    Construction Employment in Sarasota-Manatee

    May 2004; 26,100;

    May 2005; 28,900;

    May 2006; 32,200;

    May 2007; 28,500;

    May 2008; 22,000;

    May 2009; 17,000;

    May 2010; 15,200;

    May 2011; 14,900;

    May 2012: 15,300;

    May 2013; 16,400;

    May 2014; 18,700;

    May 2015; 20,100;

    May 2016; 21,100;

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Employment Statistics Program.

    Florida wage data

    Average annual wages for construction specialty trade contractors:

    Construction laborers; $27,680;

    Drywall and ceiling tile installers; $30,400;

    Paving, surfacing and tamping equipment operators; $30,710;

    Painters, construction and maintenance; $31,000;

    Tile and marble setters; $31,460;

    Roofers; $31,760;

    Insulation workers, floor, ceiling and wall; $32,930;

    Brickmasons and blockmasons; $34,060;

    Plasterers and stucco masons; $34,200;

    Cement masons and concrete finishers; $34,570;

    Glaziers; $34,990;

    Carpenters; $35,240;

    Operating engineers, other construction equipment operators; $36,500;

    Plumbers, Pipefitters and steamfitters; $38,820;

    Electricians; $40,650;

    Pipelayers; $40,870;

    First-line supervisors; $54,490;

    Source: Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015.

    "It's very difficult to find labor right now," said Jon Mast, CEO of the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association. "It's a big problem."

    At Neal Communities, which sold 989 new homes in 2015, production time has increased for the past three years.

    "It's at a 10 to 15 percent increase on the cycle, from the time we start a home to the day we complete it," Storey said.

    Demand forecast to rise 40%

    Demand for residential construction workers in Florida is projected to jump 40 percent - or 66,000 employees - from 2014 through the end of this year, according to new estimates from the National Association of Home Builders. Only three other states expect a larger increase.

    The construction sector in Sarasota-Manatee added 1,000 jobs in May over last year, a 5 percent growth rate that was the third-largest increase in that sector statewide.

    A total of 21,100 workers were counted in the two counties' construction industry, the highest May total in eight years. But that is still nearly one-third off its peak. The construction workforce hit 32,200 in May 2006 and plunged to 14,900 in 2011.

    Steady work helps

    Luxury custom home builder John Cannon said by having a steady stream of homes under construction, he has been able to provide steady work for his subcontractors.

    "There might be plenty of framers available, but when you can contract with a really good framer, provide him steady work and pay him on time, they want to work for you," said Cannon, president of the company that bears his name. "If you're a smaller/boutique builder, you are forced to hire someone with limited experience who won't provide quality workmanship.

    "For our subcontractors, it's a challenge to hire good, qualified workers. During the downturn, many construction workers moved out of the area, retired or changed careers, and today's workers, new to the construction industry, are younger and don't always have the passion for perfection nor the work ethic of some of the older, more experienced workers," he said.

    Many workers left Florida during the recession to seek jobs in other states that were not as damaged by the real estate downturn, and it's been hard to bring them back. A number of laborers were immigrants who returned to their home countries and decided not to return. Others found jobs in oil-boom states or just turned to other occupations.

    Lower wages

    One problem could be wages, which are often lower in Florida for many types of work than in other states.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, carpenters in Florida earn an average $35,240 a year, compared with the $46,780 U.S. average. Drywall and ceiling-tile installers are paid an average $30,400 in Florida, versus $46,760 nationwide. The average annual wage for glaziers is $34,990 in Florida, and $45,421 across the country.

    And labor prices are rising because of tight demand, and Mast and others say that will inevitably increase the cost of new homes.

    Permits rise 65%

    Despite the workforce issues, home construction is still roaring in Sarasota-Manatee. Through April, a total of 2,808 permits for single-family homes and multi-family units had been issued, 65 percent ahead of last year's pace. Nearly 7,150 residential permits were pulled in the two counties in all of 2015.

    In Charlotte County, permits for residential construction have climbed 58 percent so far this year.

    Statewide, residential building is 9 percent ahead of last year.

    In Florida, construction employment in June rose by 25,000 jobs, or 5.9 percent, over the year, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Nationwide, it remained steady after two months of declines.

    "Construction demand is still growing strongly in all regions and among many types of owners," said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association. "But contractors appear to be struggling to fill jobs in the short run."

    He noted that recent data showed a spike in job openings at construction firms and a huge decline in the number of experienced construction workers available for hire.

    Rob Dietz, chief economist for the National Association of Homebuilders, says labor shortages are a top constraint for new construction. The number of unfilled positions in residential construction has matched the high from 2006, he said, but homebuilding activity is still nowhere near the boom-time peaks.

    The median age of a construction worker in Florida is 45, and as the industry's workforce ages, Dietz said, builders are struggling to attract new workers. That is especially true of such skills as framing, plumbing and electricial work.

    Mast says a study showed that 60 percent of the construction workforce will be retiring in five years.

    "We have to gain those bodies back," he said. "But it's not going to happen in five years. It will take 10 years."

    Neal Communities' Storey believes some high school students can't afford the local training programs to learn a trade. Others simply don't see the construction industry as a career.

    "We have to do a better job of conveying to these prospects that it is still a noble profession to be a plumber or an electrician or a carpenter," he said. "I think we've lost that."

    Attracting workers

    Neal Communities is beginning to research how to attract more young workers into the construction trades. "If college is not the path you're on, there are great opportunities over here," Storey said.

    The local Building Industry Association formed a partnership with Suncoast Technical College to work on the workforce shortfalls. Students in 12th grade who are not college bound are often candidates for the construction-trade courses taught at the college, Mast says, but it may be time to start talking with 9th graders about those options.

    Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida, said construction in the state has shown one of the strongest rebounds in the country.

    "The construction sector was devastated by the bursting of the housing bubble, with the number of jobs destroyed coming in at just under 347,000," he said. "The construction sector endured dramatic swings in this business cycle, having gone from the worst to first when it comes to the rate of job growth in Florida.

    "It is expected to remain one of the faster sectors for job growth among all industrial sectors in Florida's economy through the end of our 2019 forecast horizon," Snaith said.

    But the director of UCF's Institute for Economic Competitiveness revised downward the sector's outlook in his latest quarterly forecast.

    "Construction job growth is expected to decelerate over the short-run forecast horizon but will remain solid, even as housing starts growth decelerates," Snaith said. "Despite the deceleration in home construction growth, the still double-digit growth rates in housing starts in the near term will support construction job growth of 6.0 percent in 2016 and 4.5 percent in 2017, before easing to 3.2 percent in 2018 and 2.5 percent in 2019."

    LINK TO ORIGINAL ARTICLE

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