BOOM: Aurora, regional building big

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AURORA | The huge Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center on Aurora’s eastern edge dwarfs just about any construction project going these days.

But it wasn’t the only massive building under construction in 2017, and builders are confident it won’t be alone in 2018.

Almost three out of four construction firms around the country say they plan to expand their payrolls in 2018, according to a survey released this week by the Associated General Contractors of America and Sage Construction and Real Estate. In Colorado, more than 80 percent of firms said they expect to add staff, with 20 percent saying they expect to add 25 or more new employees.

“Construction firms appear to be very optimistic about 2018 as they expect demand for all types of construction services to continue to expand,” Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer, said in a statement announcing the survey’s findings. “This optimism is likely based on current economic conditions, an increasingly business-friendly regulatory environment and expectations the Trump administration will boost infrastructure investments.”

Still, the survey said, many firms worry there might not be enough skilled workers to fill the positions they hope to create. They also worry hoped-for infrastructure funding doesn’t become reality.

“While workforce issues remain their top concern, many contractors are also worried about competition and the impact of decisions made in Washington on their operations,” Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said in the statement.

Simonson pointed to survey results showing 39 percent of firms said increased competition for projects was one of their biggest concerns for the year.

To battle that increased competition, many firms said they are turning to information technology.

“Increased competition for projects is driving contractors to advance their use of not only Building Information Technology, but cloud technologies,” Jon Witty, vice president and general manager for Sage Construction and Real Estate, North America, said in the statement. “This is particularly evident in the use of cloud-based mobile solutions on the job sites, where contractors are using mobile software for daily field reports, field access to customer and job information, employee time tracking and approval and the sharing of drawings, photos and documents.”

In Colorado, more than half of firms surveyed said they are struggling to fill skilled positions that earn a salary, and 21 percent said they struggle to fill hourly positions.

When asked if they expect those struggles to continue, 53 percent said they did.

Across Aurora, builders saw a spike in new projects in 2017, according to city statistics.

The city issued permits for 58 new buildings through November 2017, up from 47 the year prior.

Overall, the city issued few building permits through November 2017 compared through the same stretch in 2016, 12,338 compared to 12,916.

But most of that discrepancy was based on fewer remodeling projects or multi-family residential units. In addition to new commercial projects, the city saw a spike in single-family homes, with 1,519 in 2017 compared to 1,208 in 2016.

Building inspections were also up in 2017 with 119,259 compared to 81,361 during the same stretch in 2016. More than 26,000 of those were completed at the Gaylord project, according to the city.