Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

October 20, 2013

Area builders optimistic

TRAVERSE CITY — A strong rebound in the building sector so far in 2013 could breath new life into Grand Traverse County's jobs market.

The number of building permits issued by Grand Traverse County spiked in the first nine months of 2013, and prompted demand for skilled construction labor in the region not seen since before the economic downturn, builders say.

"This year, I would say, the economy turned," said Gary Jurkovich, owner of Pathway Homes. "There is a huge amount of pent-up demand."

Grand Traverse County issued 683 building permits from January to September. That's a 26 percent jump from last year, when 542 were issued during the same period. More striking is the fact that the value of construction projects took a huge leap forward. The estimated cost of those building projects was $50.4 million in 2012. This year, the estimated value of construction bounced to $90.2 million — a 79 percent jump.

Trends are similar in Garfield Township, which has its own building department. In 2012 the township issued 163 permits with an estimated value of $25.7 million. Nearly two months remain on the calendar, and the township has issued 140 building permits worth about $34.2 million.

"The statistics from within the county are pretty powerful," said Kathy Maisonville, executive officer of the Homebuilders Association Grand Traverse Area Inc., which covers Antrim, Benzie, Leelanau, Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties.

Compared to 2009, the building permit statistics are downright explosive. There were 111 single-family home starts through the third quarter that year. In Grand Traverse County through the third quarter of this year there were 232 — a 109 percent jump.

"Many have finally begun to understand that this is the new normal," said Maisonville. "The interest rates are low. Things have bottomed out. There is some light at the end of the tunnel. The purse strings have been loosened. We are seeing remodeling jobs and new construction at a level we've not seen in the last five years."

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