YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Buoyed by the Ultium Cells project and others, the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania reported the largest total man-hours worked in a decade during the group’s 53rd annual business meeting Dec. 7 at the Lake Club in Poland.
Kevin Reilly, executive vice president of the Builders Association, said besides Ultium Cells, which was by far the biggest project, the year included the Youngstown Orthopedic Hospital, Warren City Schools and a variety of smaller, traditional type projects.
Reilly calls those small projects the “bread and butter” that sustain the local workforce. No commercial or industrial project is too small, he says.
In 2023, he expects the second power plant in Lordstown, which recently secured its final piece of funding, will be ready to start and hopefully use a local workforce, much like Ultium Cells did.
“If our local employers, local workforce aren’t utilized to build the projects in our own backyard, we’re not going to be able to support those entities,” Reilly said, noting for the area to thrive there needs to be local construction work.
Reilly said 2022 gave the contractors a chance to return to some regular activities, networking, the estimating competition and day-to-day work. Additionally, 2022 saw the third Skilled Trades Expo, with more than 5,000 students attending the two-day event to learn more about jobs and careers in the skilled trades. Some of the students who came through previous Skilled Trades Expos are now matriculating into the apprenticeship programs. To replace the retiring workforce, the organization continues to make a push to find younger people.
Both Reilly and Gary Hartman, association services director, said there is plenty of work in the area for the skilled trades.
In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, association members reported 3,688,084 man-hours, an increase of more than 500,000 from fiscal 2021 and the highest since 2012 when the association reported 3.74 million man-hours.
The association also reported $321,176,000 in total building and nonbuilding permits in the five-county area. That was down from $333,260,000 a year before.
Hartman notes it is always a balancing act, keeping the workforce busy here and having enough skilled labor to handle all the projects in the two-state region. According to Reilly, with Ultium they needed to supplement the local workforce with additional workers from outside the area.
Hartman said at the end of November, the national unemployment rate was 3.7%, with Ohio at 4.1% and Pennsylvania at 4%. But the workforce demand in the skilled trades is up about 90% since 2021.
“We’re trying to be creative with workforce development,” Hartman said. “They’re bringing the jobs in, and there’s a lot of great future for the Mahoning Valley over the next five to 10 years, which provides great growth, makes the Mahoning Valley a great place to live, a great place to have children and a great place to work. We just have to concentrate on also getting the workforce.”
In addition to the Skilled Trades Expo, Hartman said the association is working with vocational schools, workforce development groups, business advisory councils, labor advisory committees, school districts and county educational service centers.
More than 500 students are currently enrolled in 14 school district pre-apprentice programs. Hartman emphasizes the importance of getting those new apprenticeships in place before older workers retire and are no longer available to mentor the next generation.
The association negotiated five contracts in 2022 on behalf of its contractor members: Bricklayers Local 8, for an average annual increase over five years of 2.9%; Laborers Local 964, five-year contract, with an average annual increase of 2.84%; Painters Local 476, three-year contract, 3.43%; Sheetmetal Local 33 Residential, five-year contract, 3.5%; Teamsters Local 377, three-year contract, 3.12%. In 2023, five contracts are expected to be negotiated.
Scott Froelich, vice president of TEMA Roofing of Girard, was installed as the organization’s president for the upcoming year. Froelich, a Westminster College football hall of famer, moved back to the area in 2015 to work in his three-generation family business, which provides roofing services. He and his wife, Simone, married in 2018, live in Canfield and have two children, Joella and Henry.
Froelich said he is excited about his new role, working to advance construction in the area.
“You’re getting the best of the best when it comes to construction work. And we’re proud to put that out there to the leaders of the communities and the business owners, and hopefully continue to see those opportunities going to our members,” Froelich said.
In addition to Froelich, the 150-member association introduced a list of officers and executive committee members for the upcoming year. They are:
• 1st vice president: Jason Santini, vice president of Santini Builders of Washingtonville.
• 2nd vice president: David Collins, president of Diamond Steel of North Lima.
• 3rd vice president: Chris White, vice president of Boak and Sons in Austintown.
• Treasurer: Mark Zeidenstein, partner at ZEBO LLC, Boardman.
• Past president: Anthony Hufford, president of Pro Tec Roofing in Lordstown.
2023 Executive Committee members are Sam Boak, Rob Campbell, Gary Casey, Dave Collins, Bob Daloise, Joe DeSalvo, Ken DiPanfilo, Robert Donatelli, Jeff Donatelli, John Handerhan, Jerry Harper, George Johnson, Jeff Mason, Bill Petro, Jim Santini, Jess Sowers, Ed Stevens, Megan Wine and Jerry Zreliak.
The association also presented scholarships to Youngstown State University civil and construction engineering technology students Brandon Serrano, Tyler Mann and Ciarah Candelario.
Pictured at top: From left are Scott Froelich, incoming president of the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania; Anthony Hufford, past president; Youngstown State University scholarship winners Ciarah Candelario and Brandon Serrano; Frank Vendenia of Vendrick Construction and Joe Sanson of YSU.