With the huge amount of remodeling needed after Hurricane Sandy, the construction industry is about to experience a boost.
“It’s so devastating for everyone,” said Joanne Carroll, sales and marketing council chairwomen of the Home Builders Association of Connecticut. “But as unfortunate as it is, I’m sure there will be a big increase (in work).”
Before the storm arrived, experts had speculated Connecticut’s construction industry was on the verge of a strong growth period. In August there was already a 41 percent increase in new building permits compared with a year ago, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
But now, industry representatives say there is little doubt about the surge that construction is about to experience, adding they expect there will be a huge demand for renovations, remodeling and reconstruction.
Standing outside of a house in Westport with water damage from the storm surge, contractor Andrew J. LaSala Jr. said he saw a lot of work that needed to be done in the area.
Landscapers and tree removal services he knows have kept very busy. Across the street from where he was standing, LaSala said he could see another contractor’s truck parked outside of a neighbor’s home.
LaSala, the director of development at Summerview Development Group L.L.C., has seen houses hit by trees and others with four feet of water in them from the Long Island Sound. But until everyone has power back, he said it’s difficult to know the extent of damage or what the demand will be for rebuilding.
After a five-year downturn in the construction industry, Prudential Connecticut Realty Director Terence Beaty said there are many homes that need to be remodeled and replaced due to age. But after the destruction of Sandy, the need is even stronger.
“Some homes are literally falling down, being torn down or replaced,” said Beaty, who serves as Prudential’s director of new homes and land division. “Now it will be glaring, which homes need to be remodeled, whereas before it wasn’t as obvious.”
Though the amount of construction work will increase, many in the industry worry if there will be enough workers to fill the open jobs. With such a long downturn, many previous construction workers who couldn’t find work have moved on to different industries.
With the employment gap, migrant workers are certainly expected, Beaty said. In past recessions and after Tropical Storm Irene, it hasn’t been unusual for construction workers from around the country to come to Connecticut for work.
Beaty said he had already seen trucks from Vermont and Georgia in the area, looking to help. He also said that in times of despair many contractors will drive out for free looking for emergency work that needs to be done to help residents recover. In the end, the companies will often be commissioned for paid remodeling afterward.
“I think it’s going to be a boon for the construction industry,” Beaty said. “Boy, there’s a lot of work to be done.”