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Builders Report Less Volume, More Man-Hours

POLAND, Ohio – 2017 wasn’t a good year, nor was it a bad year for construction contractors who belong to the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. Looking at year-end numbers, as members did this week at the association’s annual meeting at The Lake Club, huge power plant projects continue to fuel construction man-hours even as a shortage of skilled craftsman remains a concern.

Total construction dollar volume, computed from permits pulled in the five-county region, amounted to $968.9 million during the association’s fiscal 2017, which ended Sept. 30. That compares with $1.16 billion in fiscal 2016.

Reported man-hours were 2,997,921, up 0.05% from 2,983,144 in fiscal 2016.

The Builders represents 150 contractors who employ union skilled tradesmen who work under labor agreements negotiated by the association.

The construction dollar volume comes from “projects reported under our labor agreements,” says Kevin Reilly, executive vice president. “There may be other projects being built that are not under our labor agreements, so we’re not accounting for those man-hours.”

The association’s tabulation of 2017 man-hours is on par with the last four years, but down substantially from the historical average of nearly 3.75 million since commercial contractors formed the association in 1971.

“Of significant concern is that despite the lower-than-average number of hours worked under association contracts, employers are experiencing difficulties in getting the numbers of craftsmen that they need,” Reilly said. “Not only are the employers experiencing a shortfall, most of the apprenticeship and training programs are experiencing a shortfall in the numbers of applications they are getting for the programs.”

The association sponsors apprenticeship programs conducted by 12 crafts unions. In 2017, 372 apprentices participated in the training, among them 36 minorities and 12 women, reported Howard Agueda, services director.

Last year, 341 apprentices were enrolled, up from 292 in 2015 and 252 in 2014.

“Our work is never done,” he said. “We will continue to focus on recruiting and training apprentices to grow our industry.”

In 2017 the association negotiated 10 labor agreements with craft unions, Agueda continued. Most of the contracts cover three years. Although the annual increase varies by trade, the average gain is about 2.4%.

Next year just four labor contracts will be negotiated, he added.

The annual meeting officially ended Jeff Mason’s term as president. Mason, vice president, Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo Co. in Canfield, is succeeded by Jeff Donatelli, assistant director of operations at his family’s business, Donatelli Electric Co. in Sharpsville, Pa. Other new officers are Sam Boak, first vice president and Robert A. Donatelli, second vice president.

On the agenda for 2018 is exploring the replacement of the association’s office building at 1372 Youngstown-Kingsville Road SE in Vienna. The building, constructed in 1970, “may be winding down its useful life,” Reilly said. “We’re working with an architect to design a new building.”

Pictured at top: Kevin Reilly, executive vice president of the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania, Jeff Donatelli, incoming president, and Jeff Mason, past president.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.