Flood Produces Boom in S.C. Construction Business
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."