Builders Report Fewer Man Hours, Higher Dollar Volume

Builders Report Fewer Man Hours, Higher Dollar Volume

Andrea Wood
The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio

Construction man-hours fell 9.5% in fiscal 2013 but the total value of projects on the books rose 31% to nearly $551 million, the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania reported Wednesday at its annual meeting.

The biggest project, according to a chart provided by the 170-member trade group, was the $250 million Pennant Midstream gas processing plant in New Middletown. Subtracting that project reduces total dollar volume to $300.8 million, its lowest level since fiscal 2007.

“With the completion of the new Vallourec Star facility behind us, we are moving forward with cautious optimism for the future,” said Kevin Reilly, executive vice president of The Builders.

“Man-hours are down about 9.5% from where we were last year,” he reported. “We’re better than where we were in our down years, 2008 and 2009, but we weren’t able to hold the man-hours we had in 2012.”

On the plus side, the high value of projects on the books means The Builders “will start to see some of that in the next year or two in terms of man-hours,” Reilly continued. These projects include some retail and manufacturing construction, Penn National Gaming Inc.’s racino in Austintown as well as “opportunities presented by the shale play in the Valley.”

Among the challenges, Reilly said, is Ohio’s newly implemented “construction reform,” which changed how public works contracts are bid and awarded. “Depending on the type of contractor -- a general contractor or a subcontractor -- it impacts you differently,” he explained.

“The state had one way of doing business for 134 years, made some changes and things have to be worked out by the state and the contractors. Companies need to figure out how they fit into the state’s new [contract] delivery method,” he said.

The Builders Association has created a committee that’s working to assess the impact of construction reform on its members. The committee’s findings should begin to be known in the year ahead, Reilly said.

On behalf of its members, the association negotiates labor contracts with the building trades unions. In fiscal 2013, nine separate agreements were reached with 11 unions, reported John Watkins, labor relations director. “It was a very busy year,” he said, and the unions were “very reasonable” in their wage and benefit demands.

Overall increases in compensation ranged from 2.5% to 1%, depending on the lengths of the new contracts, Watkins said. Four labor agreements will be negotiated in fiscal 2014.

The number of students enrolled in apprenticeship training programs, operated by The Builders and the trade unions, rose to 220, said Dan Fry, assistant labor relations director. The timing of recruitment efforts and deadlines has been adjusted, he added, to align with high school graduation schedules.

The annual meeting, held at the Youngstown Country Club, began with remarks from a special visitor, the president of Youngstown State University, Randy J. Dunn, who thanked members for the association’s scholarship program.

Since 1971, The Builders have awarded $140,210 in scholarships to civil engineering students at YSU. In fiscal 2013, six students received scholarships. Four recipients attended the event and, at Dunn’s urging, made brief remarks expressing their appreciation.

The meeting concluded with Edwin G. Stevens, president of Stevens Masonry Inc., New Castle, Pa., stepping down as president of The Builders. Brian Downie, a fourth-generation project manager and estimator with Alex Downie & Sons Co., Youngstown, replaces Stevens.

Other 2014 officers installed at the annual meeting include:

  • Howard Agueda, VEC Inc., Girard, first vie president;
  • Jim Santini, Jim Santini Builder Inc. of Washingtonville, second vice president;
  • Jeff Mason, Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo Co., Canfield, third vice president;
  • Jim Baker, Baker Painting & Coatings, Boardman, secretary/treasurer.
Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania International Masonry Institute International Union of Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Laborers' International Union of North America Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce