Construction experts say pandemic leaves questions for industry

Posted at 5:08 PM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 19:32:37-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The COVID-19 pandemic is leaving a lot of industries with questions about the future, including the commercial construction industry in Kansas City.

Don Greenwell, president of the Builders' Association of Kansas City, said about 15% to 20% of projects were canceled at the start of the pandemic in March and April.

"It's holding up well now, and frankly we had a loss of production on project sites just because we're needing even more social distancing and people going around sanitizing," Greenwell said.

Greenwell said the number of planned projects right now is about 10% less than this time last year.

However, it takes a good 12 to 18 months for consumer changes to affect the industry.

"We already have work in process when things start to change, but we can see the change coming," Greenwell said.

Greenwell said builders are blessed with several mega projects in the metro such as the single terminal at Kansas City International Airport, Waddell and Reed headquarters and a possible Three Light building. Despite the loss in some small projects, he said employment is about the same because the work is considered essential.

Alise Martiny, business manager for the Greater Kansas City Building & Construction Trades Council, said the association also is focused on recruitment and is reminding prospective students there are plenty of opportunities.

"We need a skilled workforce, there's still work out there," Martiny said. "If you look at the airport there's a big apprenticeship program going on out there, so there's opportunities out there."

Martiny said trade schools this year will look very different to students, with smaller class sizes and more Zoom-based and virtual learning.