More Construction Activity Buoys Builders Association

CANFIELD, Ohio – Fiscal 2016 was a better year for The Builders than fiscal 2015, and 2017 has opened with hope and promise, its executive vice president, Kevin Reilly, said Wednesday.

By all metrics save one, man-hours, 2016 showed improvement for the 150 companies that constitute the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. The Builders serves Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties in Ohio and Lawrence and Mercer counties in Pennsylvania.

The association, founded in 1971 and made up of contractors and affiliated construction industry service members, held its 47th annual meeting Wednesday at the Tippecanoe Country Club.

The number of man-hours fell to 2.983 million in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 from 3.078 million in 2015, a four-year trend Reilly expects to be reversed in 2017 with the $890 million Lordstown Energy Center project for which ground was broken last April.

Because of the work underway on the energy center, total building and nonbuilding construction in 2016 ballooned to $1.158 billion, the first time in the 47-year history of The Builders that figure exceeded $1 billion.

Building construction in 2016 was $119.61 million, nearly double the $60.03 million logged in 2015. And nonbuilding construction was $1.038 billion, nearly four times the figure logged in 2015, to wit, $283.56 million.

Building construction and dollar volume beyond the Lordstown Energy Center are a “positive indicator,” Reilly told his members. So is the increase since 2010 in the number of apprentices the building trades unions have taken on.

Afterward, Reilly said it’s unlikely the number of man-hours will reach the heights recorded in the early years of The Builders, the trade group’s all-time high being nearly six million in 1972. The second-highest year was 1981 when 5.3 million man-hours were logged.

More recently, the 3.75 million man-hours in 2012, has been the highest number since the recovery following the Great Recession.

Technology has played a role in making the skilled tradesmen more productive and, consequently, building projects needing fewer man-hours to complete. Reilly offered two examples: Painters who used to use brushes and rollers now use sprayers. Masons who lay brick no longer have to spend as much time erecting and taking down building scaffolding. “That’s now hydraulic,” Reilly said.

Regardless, he expects to see an increase in man-hours as construction activity grows.

Fewer man-hours translate to lower contributions from employers to fund apprenticeship programs, noted Ed Stevens, a member of the executive committee. Employer contributions are based on the number of man-hours their employees work and the 2.983 million man-hours in 2016 equated to $409,952 in funding.

Under the collective bargaining agreements, The Builders underwrite the apprenticeship programs and the unions provide the instructors, labs and training equipment.

Officers elected are:

  • Jeff Mason, vice president of Youngstown Tile & Terrazzo Co. Inc., Canfield, president.
  • Jeff Donatelli, assistant director of operations, Donatelli Electric, Sharpsville, Pa., first vice president.
  • Sam Boak, president of Boak & Sons Inc., Austintown, second vice president.
  • Bob Donatelli, president, Donatelli Electric, third vice president.
  • And re-elected treasurer is Mark Zeidenstein, corporate secretary of L. Calvin Jones & Co., Canfield.

In 2016, The Builders concluded four collective bargaining agreements with the 14 unions that represent skilled tradesmen, Dan Fry reported, and he and Reilly have 10 more to negotiate before May 31.

Fry is labor relations director. Agreements were reached this year with Local 263 of the Carpenters union, Local 33 of the Sheet Metal Workers, Local 377 of the Teamsters and Local 8 of the Tile Setters. The Carpenters negotiated a 2.45% annual increase in wages, the sheet-metal workers a 4.5% hike for a one-year pact, the Teamsters 2.5% and the tile setters 2.49% annually.

Up for negotiations are Local 8 of the Bricklayers, Carpenters Local 179, Local 84 of the Heat and Frost Insulators, Operating Engineers Local 66, Painters Local 476, Plasters Local 179, Roofers Local 71 and Local 33 of the Sheet Metal Workers. The Sheet Metal Workers have three contracts up for renewal. “It’s going to be a busy year,” Fry said.

The number of apprentices has risen to 341 among the 14 unions that work with The Builders, Stevens reported, steadily rising since 2010 when he began visiting high school classrooms about the career opportunities the building trades offer and participating in job fairs.

As he made more classroom presentations and attended more job fairs, Stevens said, he found the number of people interested in careers in the building trades rose. In 2010, there were 210 in the apprentice programs; in 2011, 219; in 2012, 222; in 2013, 249; in 2014, 252; in 2015, 292.

And of the 341 now enrolled, 12 are female compared to five in 2010 and 40 are minority compared to 19 six years ago.

As The Builders has done since its inception, this year again funded scholarships to students studying construction and civil engineering at Youngstown State University.

This year five shared in $8,000:

  • Kara Weeks, a freshman.
  • Ron Bigley of Youngstown, a sophomore.
  • Jo-Lynn Campbell, also a sophomore from Youngstown.
  • Danny Marker, a senior from Howland.
  • Hayley Marchio of Vienna Township, also a senior.

In announcing the scholarships, Paul Johnson, president of Adolph Johnson & Son Co. Mineral Ridge, said he was cleaning out his basement last weekend and came across photos of the first presentation of the scholarships, $900 divided between two recipients.

Pictured: Officers of the Builders Association of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania are Robert A. Donatelli, third vice president; Mark Zeidenstein, treasurer, Jim Santini, past president; Sam Boak, second vice president, and Jeffrey Donatelli, first vice president. Missing is Jeff Mason, president.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.