The Wood River Valley building community is seeing glimmers of hope that demand for new construction is rebounding. The number of building-permit applications processed during the first two months of 2013 indicates such a trend in Sun Valley and Bellevue.
The local trend appears to reflect a recent U.S. Labor Department report that shows construction industry jobs are on the rise. Construction firms hired 48,000 people in January, bringing the national total increase to 140,000, a rise of 2.5 percent, from a year ago.
Skilled workers in the Wood River Valley could also expect to see more work opportunities this summer.
“People are hiring, but there are far fewer contractors and workers than there were a few years ago,” said Ketchum contractor David Lloyd. “Workers have left and they’re slower to come back. Some have become nurses or gone into education. Many have gone to Williston, N.D., to work in the oil shale boom, mostly driving trucks.”
Lloyd said he has steadily increased his payroll over the past two years.
“It’s been a steady ramping up. We are almost back to where we were before the crash,” he said.
The city of Bellevue has seen a steady increase for three years in its building-permit applications. From March 1, 2010, to March 1, 2011, the city issued only 19 building permits. The following year, that number increased to 21. In 2012, there were 27 permits issued.
“The first quarter of 2013 is about 30 percent up from the last two year’s first quarters,” Bellevue Planning Director Craig Eckles said.
At the higher end of the housing market, the city of Sun Valley issued 119 building permits in 2011, with a total valuation of $16.3 million. The number dropped in 2012 to 115, but due to an increase in new commercial and residential projects, the total valuation nearly doubled that year to $29.2 million.
By March 1, 2013, Sun Valley had issued seven new building permits totaling about $1.13 million in project valuations. In the city newsletter, Building Official Eric Adams referred to the overall trend as “emergently promising.”
Blaine County issued 137 permits in 2011, with a total of $29 million in valuation. That number dropped to 122 permits in 2012, with a total valuation of $15.8 million. During the first two months of 2013, the county issued seven building permits totaling $237,000 in valuation.
Ketchum also saw a drop in building permit applications, from 109 in 2011 to 99 in 2012. As of March 12 of the new year, the city had issued 12 new permits, compared to eight in the first quarter of 2011 and 15 in the first quarter of 2012.
The city of Hailey also saw a drop in permits, from 134 in 2011, totaling $9.1 million in value, to 117 permits in 2012, totaling $4.7 million. So far in 2013, the city has issued eight permits. That’s a lot less than the 21 issued during the first quarter of 2012, though all 21 were for remodels.
Hailey City Planner Bart Bingham said things are “looking brighter” this year because some of this year’s permits are for new construction.
The vast majority of building permits issued in the past two years in the Wood River Valley have been for additions and remodels.
“Over the recession, remodels have been a mainstay for those in the building industry,” said Jan Roeser, regional economist for the Idaho Department of Labor, which measures job growth in southern Idaho.
Roeser said that of 43 online job postings Tuesday, most were related to health care, nonprofits or financial and professional business services.
“Blaine County is still the county that was hit hardest of all eight counties in southern Idaho, and it is still lagging behind the most economically in construction,” she said.
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org