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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 1 year ago

Architects agree: Market remains primed for growth

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The good times roll on for Tampa Bay's development economy.

A survey of architects and architecture firm principals viewed as a bellwether for economic development prospects indicates the Tampa Bay region will continue to enjoy a high level of real estate construction activity well into 2020 and 2021.

The 120 respondents to the survey, conducted by the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Institute of Architects and unveiled last week at a panel discussion in Tampa, say their firms have experienced zero slowdown in demand and are planning to hire more employees. Many also predict significant revenue growth.

“Tampa Bay architects have a unique vantage point on the longer-term outlook for Tampa Bay’s development-related economy,” Dewey Caruthers of The Caruthers Institute, which conducted the study in partnership with AIA Tampa Bay, says in a press release. “Area architects are the ‘canaries in the coal mines’ for the region’s development-related growth.”

That’s because architects are hired early in the development process, Caruthers explained, with projects often being completed two or three years after the architecture firm is brought on board.

With that in mind, the canaries’ feathers, as it were, seem unruffled. Nearly seven in 10, 69%, of survey respondents expect demand for architectural services in the Tampa Bay area to increase in 2019, while 79% say they will bring on additional employees. Some 42% anticipate revenue growth of at least 10% in 2019.

The booming development economy is not without its challenges, however. Stephen Johnson, senior vice president of St. Petersburg-based Harvard Jolly Architecture, which sponsored the survey, said during the panel discussion that his firm has had to recruit nationally more than ever to fill critical job openings. That jibes with the survey results, in which 98% of respondents said it’s becoming more difficult to recruit and hire skilled workers.

(This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Stephen Johnson's name.)

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