Focus, Construction, and Human Resources

Lamar closing not a reflection of Michigan construction

An industry insider says construction is booming and there are lots of jobs available.

July 18, 2014
| By Pete Daly |
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The head of the Associated Builders and Contractors of Michigan says the abrupt closing of Lamar Construction in no way reflects a slowdown in the Michigan construction industry.

As for “softness” in the industry, “there is none,” said Chris Fisher, president of ABC of Michigan.

ABC of Michigan just completed surveys of its members, which number about 1,000 companies in or serving the commercial/industrial construction industry across the state. More than two-thirds reported their business improved over the past year. Seventy percent reported having the same or better backlog of contracts compared to one year ago, said Fisher.

“They are seeing more private sector work, which is key,” he added, as opposed to construction of schools, colleges and other government facility projects.

Ninety-eight percent of construction companies expect their order backlog to hold steady or improve over the next year, said Fisher.

“It’s better than it’s been in a decade, I would say. We are ahead of where we were last year at this time by a few billion dollars, in terms of the amount” of new construction booked so far this year.

Fisher said Michigan has gained jobs in the construction industry for the last three years in a row and construction incomes have risen in Michigan for the last three years.

He predicted the 170 former Lamar employees in Michigan “should have no problems in finding jobs in Michigan. Michigan has a shortage of skilled-trades workers in particular.”

The West Michigan chapter of the ABC of Michigan announced last week it has been working with member companies to provide resources and employment to displaced employees.

“Lamar Construction has not been a member of our chapter for several years; however, upon the news of their closing, it’s no longer about members and non-members. It’s about getting people working again and supporting merit-shop contractors,” said Norm Brady, president of the West Michigan chapter.

“With the shortage of skilled tradespeople, project managers, superintendents and office personnel facing the majority of our members, we know there will be countless opportunities for Lamar employees to find work and quickly,” Brady said.

According to the chapter, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the construction industry’s need for workers will grow twice as fast as the average for all industries, and that the industry will face a workforce shortage of 1.6 million workers by 2022. The state of Michigan alone predicts the demand for skilled trades jobs will increase by at least 7.4 percent by the end of the current decade.

“Our members are actively hiring construction laborers, carpenters, iron workers, skilled tradespeople, assistant project managers, project managers, superintendents and office personnel. ABC/WMC member companies are experiencing a workforce shortage unlike they’ve seen in decades and are eager to hire,” Brady said.

“This is the very reason we joined forces with the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan and the Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids to create the Construction Workforce Development Alliance of West Michigan. We just launched our new website, www.webuildmi.com, to offer information about opportunities in the construction industry.”

Displaced construction workers seeking employment can use the ABC of Michigan online job board free of charge, where they can post their resumes, search for job opportunities and be contacted by employers. The address is miconstructionjobcenter.com.

Construction workers also can submit their contact information and skills direct to the West Michigan chapter of ABC on the chapter homepage at abcwmc.org. Member companies then can retrieve that information.

“The greatest concern of our 400-plus members is finding people. The construction industry in West Michigan is the strongest it’s been in years,” said Paul Lemley, chairman of the chapter’s board of directors.

The West Michigan chapter includes all of the western Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. Its headquarters are at 580 Cascade West Parkway in Grand Rapids.

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