CLARKSBURG — West Virginia’s construction industry continues to be among the most robust in the nation, with consistent additions of jobs over the last 12 months, according to data from the Associated General Contractors of America.
Between April 2018 and April 2019, West Virginia added the highest percentage of construction jobs in the nation, with an overall increase of 33.7 percent, or approximately 12,200 jobs.
The numbers show a persistent need for qualified, well-trained workers, said Ken Simonson, chief economist for the association.
“Construction employment rose in most states over the past year, yet the record number of job openings at the end of March implies contractors would add even more workers if they could,” he said. “The count of states with rising construction employment in the latest month would be still higher if more workers were available.”
Michael Clowser, executive director of the Contractors Association of West Virginia, said the state’s construction industry is one of the most vital components of West Virginia’s multi-faceted economy.
“Construction is the catalyst to economic development in West Virginia. Contractors have to build a road, school, water treatment facility or building before any development or growth can occur,” he said. “A healthy construction industry is vital to the economic success of West Virginia. Construction in North Central West Virginia has been robust the last few years, much more than in the southern part of the state.”
A portion of the industry’s success can be attributed to the projects associated with Gov. Jim Justice’s “Roads to Prosperity” initiative, Clowser said.
“People are beginning to get a clear understanding that West Virginia must have a strong infrastructure to compete for business with surrounding states, and that means investing in infrastructure. We have neglected that for far too long in our state,” he said. “Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Legislature increased highway funding in 2017, and voters of the state approved the ‘Roads to Prosperity’ road bond amendment.”
However, further investment into other areas of infrastructure needs to be a priority in the Mountain State, Clowser said.
“This same commitment needs to be made to build and upgrade other infrastructure such as water and sewer treatment facilities, schools and airports,” he said. “Without a modern infrastructure, companies cannot build and existing companies cannot expand.”
The construction industry’s reach and impact are wide-ranging and provide a living for tens of thousands of families, Clowser said.
“There are about 50,000 West Virginians directly employed in construction. There are easily 50,000 more that service the construction industry,” he said. “These jobs include truck drivers, equipment dealers, concrete and asphalt producers, steel producers, material suppliers and associated industries that supply construction projects. There are about 10,000 construction companies operating in the state which range from a construction professional with his tools and a truck to multimillion-dollar construction firms.”
On a local level, cities and towns across the state depend on tax revenues from construction to fund everything from renovation projects to street paving, Clowser said.
“Ask any municipality that charges a Business and Occupation Tax on construction performed in its city limits the impact construction has on their budget,” he said. “The same can be said for municipalities that impose their own consumer sales tax. One building project can generate thousands of dollars for a municipality. These dollars allow more services and benefits to the residents of that community.”
The same is true for the state’s budget, Clowser said.
“Just the increase in construction employment has generated millions more in personal income tax collection for the state. The same goes for consumer sales tax collection as contractors pay six percent on every piece of material bought for a construction project,” he said. “Much of the state’s current budget surplus can be attributed to construction activity.”
The state’s ongoing boom for the oil and gas industry has greatly benefited the construction industry, Clowser said.
“Many Contractors Association of West Virginia members are actively engaged in the pipeline projects. Many of our supplier members, such as aggregate producers and equipment dealers, are busy supporting pipeline construction,” he said. “Much of the work is seven days a week. Our members’ employees have steady work with good benefits.”
Clowser said he sees no reason not to be optimistic about the future of the state’s construction industry.
“I see a bright future for construction, especially for young people who want a rewarding and productive career,” he said. “Technology will change the way construction is done in the future, and the state needs a young, qualified workforce to fill the jobs that will be needed.”
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