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Medford, Rogue Valley See Jump in Construction With Building Boom

Wed November 30, 2011 - West Edition
CEG



MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) Medford contractors and construction workers hit hard by recession are welcoming a building boom in the Rogue Valley.

The Mail-Tribune reported Medford has seen more than $75 million in commercial construction this year with more expected.

Workers are building a 192,903-sq.-ft. Wal-Mart Superstore and working on Lithia Motors’ four-story headquarters. The city’s building department is expecting a permit application for Northgate Marketplace, a commercial development that will host a Trader Joe’s and REI store.

“We’re seeing contractors and subcontractors moving from survival to recovery mode,” said Mark VonHolle, Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. board president and vice president of S&B James Construction Management.

“Hopefully, the construction we’re seeing now is a preview of coming attractions and will create a ripple effect of confidence. We are likely at the bottom of the market to where people are maximizing the value of their dollars and can get better value than any time in the future. There’s been so much uncertainty about tomorrow — let alone next year — that a lot of folks haven’t made the investments they need.”

Much of the current activity was planned before the recession but will carry some contractors well into 2012.

After a $13 million Commons job, Ashland’s Adroit Construction will follow with a $30 million campus housing project at Southern Oregon University.

“It’s nothing like it was, but it has rebounded,” said Chief Executive Officer Bob Mayers. “We’re seeing more private work out there, which is a good thing.”

In the past five years, Adroit, Batzer Inc., R.A. Murphy and S&B James downsized. The market likely will continue to be challenging, Mayers said.

Subcontractors also have been affected. A clearinghouse for subcontractors, Medford Builders Exchange, however, said its membership of 385 is close to what it was in 2006.

“Luckily, it’s remained steady,” said Planner Manager Rachael Fullenwider. “We’d lose one or two and then gain one or two when people were trying to find another source of work. When there were so many buildings going up, they didn’t have to have this outlet; they were just handed jobs.”

Fullenwider described recent weeks as “wavy.”

“One week, it’s been super, super busy with people bidding projects, and then the next there’s nothing to bid on,” Fullenwider said. “We are hearing a lot of architects and designers are saying it’s getting slightly busier.”