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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 18, 2022 5 months ago

Survey says: 93% of architects optimistic about development economy

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Architects upbeat about the construction industry in 2022.
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

The architects have spoken. And boy are they upbeat.

In the latest iteration of the AIA Tampa Bay’s Voice of Architecture Economic Outlook, 95 area architects were surveyed to get their thoughts on the state of the region’s real estate development economy. They were asked about everything from how they saw things for this year to their thoughts on hiring at their own firms.

The results paint the picture of professionals bullish on the industry and the economic outlook for Tampa Bay.

The survey, according to the AIA, “serves to predict the future for area real estate development and construction activity.” Architects, the organization says, have a unique insight on what is going to happen because they are hired early in the development process. And these artists of the development industry usually are working on projects for a few years before the first shovel full of dirt moves.

The respondents in this year’s survey were more upbeat than last year, when they were questioned during the heart of the pandemic.

In the 2021 survey, 71% believed the Tampa Bay development-related economy would be “excellent” or “good,” with only 29% forecasting it would be “fair.” That’s a 20-percentage point swing from this year’s responses.

On the hiring front, 52% say they “strongly agree” or “agree” that their firms would hire in 2021, nearly the same as this year. But the number of architects believing it's getting more difficult to hire skilled workers jumped from 65% last year to 72% this year.

And last year, 70% of respondents expected demand for architectural services in the region to increase in 2021. That increased 14 percentage points in the 2022 survey.

Driving much of the optimism in the region’s future is the huge influx of new residents coming into the market during the past couple of years.

“It’s all about supply and demand,” says Rachael Brown, commercial real estate director for the Bank of Tampa, who participated on a recent panel about the survey.

“Tampa Bay has seen an incredible increase in people and companies moving here in a very short time period, creating a demand our current supply couldn’t and still hasn’t been able to support, which is reflected in the sentiments of this report. We’re lucky that rental rate growth is still outpacing the increase in construction costs and operating expenses, but that can’t last forever. Keep an eye on vacancies to increase and months’ supply of homes on the market to indicate a return to normal.”

Of the 95 architects who responded to the survey, 73% were either principals or managers.

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