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Construction companies weather pandemic, fear slump in the fall

Posted at 5:03 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 18:40:37-04

GREEN, Ohio — As the slow return to work continues in Ohio, construction companies are weathering the pandemic, but preparing for a possibility of a severe slump later this year.

When Governor Mike DeWine began shutting down non-essential businesses in March, amid the coronavirus outbreak, there were initial concerns from the construction industry.

"I think the biggest impact was the unknowns at first, just not knowing how to react to it," said Don Shultz, owner of Shultz Design & Construction in Green. "I think overall the home builders did have to stand up and say, 'Hey, the impact of you shutting us down would be significant.'"

Shultz said his company and many others were ruled essential, allowing his employees to continue to build on six to eight projects that went under contract prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

However, Shultz, who has been building and remodeling homes in the area for 35 years, said he's concerned about a downturn in construction this fall.

"We think the second half of this year will be when we feel it because not a lot of people are wanting to go into the office to talk about new projects," he said.

Shultz said since new building is a major indicator of the economy, a big drop in construction could be devastating to some builders.

"I'm able to take it in stride a little bit, but I know there's a lot of people that are adversely impacted to the the point they can't recover from something like this," Shultz said.

While the company is glad to be working and providing paychecks for their employees, the work has not been without challenges.

At times, shipments from overseas have dried up causing some delays on projects.

"Cabinets, some plumbing fixtures, light fixtures and smaller items. It's become a little hard to obtain those," said Don's son, Darren Shultz, who is also vice president of the Home Builders Association serving Summit and Portage Counties.

For several weeks, the company has taken additional safety measures to guard against the spread of the virus. Prior to arriving at job sites, the temperatures of workers are taken at the office. Employees are spacing out to practice social distancing and wearing masks at construction locations.

"I really don't like them going to the store. We're really relying heavily on a lot of our vendors and trades to deliver stuff to the job sites," Darren Shultz said. "Most of the scheduling, we're trying not to stack a bunch of trades on the job at the same time, if we can."

Despite the economic uncertainty the construction industry is facing, Don Shultz said he's confident his business will get through this challenging time.

"We're not gonna probably see a really great bottom line at the end of the year because of the turn down, but we'll still survive."