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Construction labor shortages ripple through the region as building projects boom

Posted at 12:23 PM, Feb 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-18 16:59:35-05

CLEVELAND — A tightening supply of workers in the building trades are starting to surface in Northeast Ohio’s construction market, a sign of a changing construction scene across the region, according to an article from Crain’s Cleveland Business.

“Contractors are clearly pressed,” said Doug Price, a CEO of Willoughby-based apartment and officer owner of K&D Group. “They are having more trouble meeting deadlines.”

Price isn’t alone when it comes to noticing changes in construction labor.

Gary Naim, president of Broadview Heights-based Petros Homes, said what a builder would normally calculate as a four-month job, now calculates it closer to five months.

Crain’s reports that construction contractors are planning future jobs more carefully and looking for younger workers to replace a graying workforce in the next few years.

Gareth Vaughan, president and CEO of Cleveland-based Albert M. Higley Co., said builders are getting pulled in two different directions on the labor front: demand of more workers with the decreasing interest from a younger generation to enter the construction trade.

“We have increased demand because of a building boom in Cleveland and “we’re seeing diminished interest from the next generation of workers,” Vaughan said.

Vaughan added that as a union contractor, his firm is seeing less impact from the changing workforce than its non-union, lower-paying competitors.

At Fairlawn-based Welty Building Co., Chris Burns said they are addressing the labor shortage concern by using lean production methods, such as having suppliers drop off supplies on wheels so they can be easily moved around and let the trades focus on their work instead of moving materials around the job site.

Several contractors told Crain's that more overtime is available to meet the production requirements.

Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors, said labor shortages or rising costs affecting projects are few.

"The industry is not crying wolf about concerns over labor, but it is finding ways to get around it," Simonson told Crain's.

David Wondolowski, president of the Cleveland Building Trades Council, says non-union workers will go with the union.

Wondolowski estimates the council's unions have nearly 12,000 members after gaining 1,000 new members last years, which serves Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Lake and Geauga counties.

Burns says even if firms recruit more workers, there will be a problem finding the passion for the construction business.

"It's not your first choice. Your attitude is different," Burns said.

Read the full article from Crain's Cleveland Business here.