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Construction job growth is strong in Idaho

Construction of a continuous pulp mill digester at Clearwater Paper is a major factor behind Lewiston ranking as the No. 1 metro in construction job growth. Photo courtesy of Clearwater Paper.

Construction of a continuous pulp mill digester at Clearwater Paper is a major factor behind Lewiston ranking as the No. 1 metro in construction job growth. Photo courtesy of Clearwater Paper.

The northern Idaho city of Lewiston is once again tops in the nation with construction job growth, ranking No. 1 for August in the Associated General Contractors of America’s monthly report on metro area construction employment.

Lewiston has ranked No. 2 since May, thanks to large projects by the city’s two largest employers: Clearwater Paper Corp. and Vista Outdoor.

Those two companies and two 45,000-square-foot buildings under construction by California newcomer P. Kay Metal, a Los Angeles metal manufacturer, have added 400 construction jobs to Lewiston since August

Doug Mattoon

Doug Mattoon

2016, a 27 percent increase that is the highest in the country, according to AGC’s analysis of U.S. Department of Labor statistics.

“Clearwater tells me every single hotel room is filled with construction workers,” said Doug Mattoon, executive director of Valley Vision Economic Development. “I figure Clearwater will wrap up in the next month or two. P. Kay Metal is going full speed right now.”

All five Idaho metropolitan areas fall within the top 40 percent of the nation’s 358 metropolitan statistical areas in increased construction employment.

Wayne Hammon

Wayne Hammon

“The secret is out,” said Wayne Hammon, executive director of Idaho AGC. “People have heard Idaho is a great place to do business. They want to do business here.”

A year or two ago, Idaho metro rankings spread from 1 to the 300s. Now, all five metros are in the top 141.

“The exciting things (Idaho National Laboratories) is doing attracts partners that want to work with them,” Hammon said. “Now all sorts of companies are moving to Burley, Rupert and Kimberly to be part of the food processing renaissance (in Magic Valley).”

The Twin Falls area does not count as metro area but construction is robust there, too, Hammon said.

Pocatello ranked No. 19 in the county with an 11 percent increase and 200 new construction jobs.

“We have quite a surge in housing growth with multiple developments,” said John Regetz, executive director of Bannock Development Corp. “I anticipate more (construction jobs as) a couple housing developments haven’t come online yet.”

Regetz also noted the 100,000-square-foot FBI data center that will break ground in October in Pocatello.

Boise and Idaho Falls saw 5 percent gains in construction jobs in August, both ranking No. 141, with 1,000 additional hires in Boise and 200 in Idaho Falls. Coeur d’Alene ranked No. 31 with a 10 percent gain and 500 additional jobs, according to AGC statistics.

“My favorite thing is whenever I see these rankings is how much higher the numbers would be if he had people to here,” Hammon said. “We have 250 projects on (Idaho AGC Weekly BidSource) for people to bid on in Idaho.”

Idaho’s shortage of construction workers falls in line with the rest of the country.

“The shortage of available, qualified craft workers is clearly having an impact on the way many firms operate,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC of America’s chief executive officer. “And if these shortages continue, they are likely to have a significant impact on overall economic growth.”

About Teya Vitu

Teya Vitu is an Idaho Business Review reporter, covering commercial real estate, construction, transportation and whatever else may intrigue him in the moment. Join me on Twitter at @IBR_TeyaVitu.