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Construction industry makes a comeback

Dan Troxel, general carpenter foreman, and Megan McDonald, of Schofield Excavation, monitor the construction site of Strata in Vail on Monday.
Townsend Bessent | Townsend@vaildaily.com |

By the numbers

61 percent: Increase in Eagle building permits through March 19 in 2014 and 2015.

44: Number of building permits issued in Vail through March 20, 2015.

$15.4 million: Value of Eagle County building permits issued through March 20, 2015.

$5.4 million: Value of town of Vail building permits issued through March 20, 2015.

Sources: Eagle County, town of Vail

EAGLE COUNTY — The returning health of the local construction industry is continuing this year. Now local construction companies need to find more subcontractors.

Chris Evans, of Evans Chaffee Construction, said his company is “doing pretty well this year: on par with last year — and last year was very good.”

Evans said his company has been hiring, but it is struggling to find skilled people to fill open jobs. Many of those skilled workers left the valley when the local construction business fell on hard times starting in 2009 and haven’t returned.

That lack of skilled workers applies to subcontractors — a group that includes plumbers and electricians. Evans said part of the problem his company is having is an active construction market in the Denver area.

“There aren’t as many (companies) willing to come here from Denver and work for about the same rates,” Evans said.

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At R.A. Nelson & Associates, one of the valley’s oldest construction companies, spokesman Lee Rimel said that company has hired about 20 people between its Vail Valley and Roaring Fork Valley operations.

Evans Chaffee and R.A. Nelson are both staying busy, too.

In an email, Rimel wrote, “For the first time since the Great Recession, we have a comfortable backlog of work. While we still have the capacity to take on more work this summer and fall. Our focus is on securing work in 2016, 2017 and beyond.”

Evans echoed that sentiment, saying that his company still has “some capacity” for projects this year.

FIRMS ADAPT

And the projects have changed, too. Construction companies that weathered the industry downturn did so by taking on home remodeling projects and, in R.A. Nelson’s case, a lot of work on public-sector work.

R.A. Nelson still has a good deal of public-sector work — the company is working on improvements at Ford Park in Vail — but Rimel said the company is building a pair of custom homes in Vail, as well as a new four-unit property in the Roaring Fork Valley.

MORE HOME CONSTRUCTION

Home construction seems to be leading the way in terms of permits.

Eagle County building official Vance Gabassi a number of permits for new homes have been issued in Edwards, Beaver Creek and Cordillera. Gabassi said he expects to see more permit applications come through his office as the resort areas lift their ski-season restrictions on home construction.

Besides homes, Gabassi said a major expansion of the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District’s Edwards wastewater treatment plant is expected to last a couple of years.

Town of Vail Community Development Department Director George Ruther said a number of homes are also scheduled to be built this year. In addition, work will start this year on the Marriott Residence Inn, a new hotel to be built on the site of the old Roost Lodge in West Vail.

Ruther said that project has changed in a significant way since it was first approved several years ago. When first approved, the project was a combination hotel- condominium project. It will be built as a hotel only. That’s going to help diversify Vail’s lodging inventory, Ruther said.

EXTENSIONS GRANTED

The Marriott project is also evidence of patience on the part of the town. The Vail approval process puts deadlines for development on projects. Ruther said that in the years since the worst of the economic slump, the Vail Town Council has granted extensions to several projects, including the Marriott Residence Inn, The Lion condominium project and the Cornerstone condo project, near the Cascade lift at Cascade Village. The Lion, formerly known as Strada, is under construction, and work is expected to start this year on the Cornerstone project.

Without those extensions, Ruther said those projects wouldn’t have been able to start as quickly as they have.

With those projects and new work coming through the town’s offices, “We’re really starting to see redevelopment activity again.”

That means there could be some quality construction work for some time to come.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com and @scottnmiller.


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