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Stories of people and communities going about the work of recovery from the floods of 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.00000177-2120-db48-a97f-fb222fb50000In October of 2015, South Carolina received rainfall in unprecedented amounts over just a few days time. By the time the rain began to slacken, the National Weather Service reported that the event had dumped more than two feet of water on the state. The U.S. Geological Survey reported that the subsequent flooding was the worst in 75 years.Then, one year later, rain and storm surge from Hurricane Matthew dealt a blow to many in South Carolina still at work recovering from the 2015 floods.SC Public Radio Flood Coverage from the Beginning

Flood Produces Boom in S.C. Construction Business

Construction workers elevate a house on Lake Katherine in Columbia that was heavily damaged in October’s flood.(File photo)
Tut Underwood/SC Public Radio

October's historic flood brought massive damage to homes and businesses across South Carolina. While the storm brought economic difficulties, one sector is experiencing a boom: the construction business.  Tut Underwood talks to experts in the field about the heightened demand for contractors and how long it will last.

Contractor Perry Crosthwaite says he was surprised by how much business shot up. "Good Lord, couple hundred percent. I think everybody had situations where we couldn't get to everybody that was calling... we had to turn some stuff away," he says.  Seven months later, he still has four major jobs related to flood damage.  

Crosthwaite expects the boom to last.  He says households generally have to deal with acquiring funds or advice from bankers and realtors before settling on repairs to have done.  "That's what we're hearing," he says, "a lot of people are just now evaluating what they're going to do, and making the decision."  He says business from flood repairs will likely last for at least another year, maybe two.

Executive Director of the Building Industry Association of Central South Carolina, Earl McCleod, says industry growth can be gauged via building permits, "and it looks like permits for single family dwellings may be up 10 to 15 percent over this period last year."  He adds construction is one of the fastest growing areas in terms of increased employment, with renovations, re-modelings and repairs stacking up.

The limiting factor, though, is the labor supply.  Crosthwaite says with the increased workload in South Carolina, it's difficult to find enough skilled tradesmen. "The labor resources are stretched to the max. I mean, after the '08, '09 slowdown in the construction business, we lost a lot of [the] labor pool, but now... everybody's looking for painters, sheetrockers, brickmasons."

Crosthwaite says he does feel a little guilty to be benefiting from others' misfortune. "I know a lot of people that got affected by this," he says, but "that's our profession. I'd rather see us get it than some guy from Kansas comin' in here that's gonna be in and out and gone. It's our business, and hopefully we're all looking after our neighbors."