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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 9 months ago

Economic Forecast: Construction firm sees growth potential in new division, parts of region

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Construction — Jack Cox, president, Halfacre Construction Co., Lakewood Ranch
by: Grier Ferguson Sarasota-Manatee Editor

Company: Halfacre has grown about 10% each year over the past few years, surpassing $40 million in sales last year. “We’ll continue to see that,” kind of growth, says Halfacre President Jack Cox.

In 2019, Halfacre will emphasize its new cold storage division. “We feel there’s a tremendous amount of growth there,” he says. The company has already worked on cold storage projects in Atlanta and Cincinnati.

Closer to home, Halfacre has broken ground on a large project at Port Manatee. Cox declines to share the name of the company behind the project, but says it will have a significant impact on the region in terms of employment.

Industry: Cox expects to see more growth in certain parts of the region in 2019 — and that growth will mean opportunities for the construction industry.

In Charlotte County, the area near Punta Gorda Airport will boom, he says, with more investment in the airport and ancillary businesses growing with it. South Sarasota County’s North Port will be a big growth area, too. “North Port has been very aggressive, and I think it will grow exponentially with the Braves stadium being completed,” Cox says. “That is a huge gem for our community.”

He’s also keeping his eyes on Lakewood Ranch, where the construction company is headquartered. Cox says the master-planned community still has available land to grow.

Threats: One of the issues the area faces is lack of available land, Cox says. There’s also a labor shortage to contend with — along with the cost of available labor going up.

“You’ll start to see continued price increases on labor and materials,” he says. It’s taking longer to get materials, too. “That’s a national issue — steel, lumber, anything that’s manufactured — you’re seeing long lead times.”

Despite issues with labor and materials, construction is booming now, Cox says. Halfacre focuses on commercial construction, and that industry, he says, follows the residential construction industry: “As long as residential is busy, commercial is busy.”

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