The Babcock Ranch School, built in seven months, is one of many new projects in the region.

Brick by brick: the coolest projects in the region

The region is filled with some unique construction projects. But will there be enough workers to sustain the industry surge? 
By: 
Sep. 7, 2018

The west coast of Florida has a high quotient of cool construction projects — but it comes with a chilly caveat: The industry’s severe labor shortage continues to drag down the otherwise robust sector, both in the state and nationwide.

For starters, 80% of construction firms report having a hard time filling hourly positions, which represent the bulk of the construction workforce, according to an industry-wide survey released Aug. 29 by Autodesk and the Associated General Contractors of America. “Labor shortages in the construction industry remain significant and widespread,” ACG Chief Economist Ken Simonson says in the statement. “The best way to encourage continued economic growth, make it easier to rebuild aging infrastructure and place more young adults into high-paying careers is to address construction workforce shortages.”

In Florida the labor shortage problem is obvious, with solutions not-so-much. Nearly eight of 10 Sunshine State construction executives who responded to the ACG poll, 79%, say they are having a hard time filling all or some hourly positions. While 12% of the respondents say their companies aren’t currently hiring, 9%, magically it appears, report having “no difficulty” filling any hourly spots. More problems: One-third of respondents predict it will be harder to hire people over the next 12 months.

'Labor shortages in the construction industry remain significant and widespread.' Ken Simonson, chief economist, Associated General Contractors of America.

Some companies are moving forward with new hiring and recruiting strategies. Nearly two-thirds, 62% of companies on a national scale, have raised hourly salaries, the report shows. One-fourth of the respondents rare providing or improving incentives and bonuses to attract workers, while 24% have improved employee benefits. In Florida, 77% of respondents say their companies are bumping up salaries, and 43% are introducing or enhancing benefit programs.

Of course, even with the labor shortage, lots of work is getting done.

In this issue the Business Observer highlights over a half-dozen projects, more than $50 million in total value, that stand out for a variety of reasons. There’s a college dorm in Manatee County that lives like a resort. There’s a veterinarian practice’s new main office — a onetime Bob Evans restaurant in Lee County. And in Tampa, a credit union’s new digs leads the way in solar for a new commercial project.

Did we miss any cool projects? Let us know. Send an email to Mark Gordon at mgordon@businessobserverfl.com.

Read all of our Cool Construction articles here: 

Luxury condo project beats back challenges — and avoids tree

Giant credit union's $28 million complex bleeds solar

Panels on new pavilion meant to represent ripples of sand

New dorm completes school's residential core

Multipurpose building uses insulated concrete forms to streamline construction

New school can accommodate more students in master-planned community

Former Bob Evans restaurant transformed for new use