Economic Development

Building Trades Expect Busy Construction Season

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Large-scale projects under construction or in the pipeline bode well for the building trades this year, organized labor leaders say.

Meanwhile, there are signs early this year that the commercial building market might be on the rebound, along with renewed prospects in the oil and gas industry.

“This year looks very promising for work,” says Rocky DiGennaro, president of the Western Reserve Building and Construction Trades Council and business agent of Local 125 of the Laborers International Union of North America. “There seems to be a lot of highway work coming this year. Building work is loosening up in the entire area.”

DiGennaro and Bill Booth, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 64, say that the building trades in the Mahoning Valley might not boast the numbers it did 20 years ago, but is nevertheless more resilient than ever, kept busy by major investments in energy and infrastructure.

The Western Reserve Building Trades consists of 15 craft organizations and 23 locals of construction trades unions.

“I’ve talked to a lot of the other trades in other areas and there’s a general attitude that things are happening,” DiGennaro says.

Across the Mahoning Valley, the building trades are engaged in several projects that stand to keep their membership busy.

The most prominent is Clean Energy Future’s $900 million Lordstown Energy Center under construction, which is expected to result in more than 500 building jobs during peak construction. There is also the prospect of another energy plant similar in scope being built adjacent to the site, which would use roughly the same number of tradesmen.

DiGennaro points to other projects underway or planned in the region that are likely to boost work for the local trades.

Additional investment is being made in Thomas Steel Strip Corp. in Warren, which has led to more work for the trades, while work on converting the former Tamco building in Austintown to a Nordson Xaloy plant is on track.

“That project is just ramping up,” observes Local 64’s Booth. His local boasts 340 members who perform the majority of their work throughout Mahoning County, Liberty and Hubbard townships in Trumbull County and the six northern townships of Columbiana County.

“We also have members working in Carrollton on the Carroll County Energy Center,” Booth says. The power station is likely to employ at least 700 as it’s built while Royal Dutch Shell’s $6 billion cracker plant near Monaca, Pa., has already drawn local crafts to that project.

“One of our contractors, Valley Electric, did some pre-construction work at the cracker plant,” Booth says. During its peak construction phase, the $6 billion project should provide employment for 6,000 construction workers. Actual construction of the plant is expected to begin in 2018 and is scheduled for completion in the early 2020s.

“Commercial and industrial have been a little soft lately,” Booth notes, despite projects such as the University Edge complex at Youngstown State University, the expansion at Akron Children’s Hospital, Windsor House’s new skilled-nursing center in Canfield and work on the City Hall Annex in Youngstown.

IBEW Local 64, in partnership with the National Electrical Contractors Association, or NECA, recently completed work on a new 10,500 square-foot building at Southern Boulevard and Western Reserve Road in Boardman that serves as the site for the Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee’s training program.

“This is where we’ll train and do all of our apprentice and journeyman programs,” he says. The new center houses four classrooms and a lab where students receive hands-on training on solar arrays, programmable logic controls and other disciplines in the field.

“We currently have four classes on the commercial side and three in residential,” Booth says.

Still, Booth is hopeful that the market is starting to break open.

“At the end of last year, commercial started to decline, but there’s work on the horizon,” he relates, especially at YSU and an expansion at FedEx’s hub in North Jackson.

Pictured: IBEW Local 64 Business Manager James Burgham,  Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee Training Director Ed Emerick and Local 64 Membership Development Coordinator Bill Booth inside the union’s training center, where apprentices are being taught how to install solar panels.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.