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Construction industry will build on 1997's successes

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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

1997 was a good year for construction, and '98 should be just as good, according to Sheryl Letterman, executive of the Springfield Contractors Association.

Danny Williams, owner of Danny Williams Construction Company, said interest rates are still excellent and anyone who wants to buy a home should buy now.

There are still several spec homes on the market from '97, and builders will most likely proceed with caution in that market, Williams said. Custom home building is going strong, however. Williams and his brother, Jeff, will start seven new homes in Republic this year.

Williams served as president of the Home Builders Association in '97 and will continue in that capacity this year.

"It's been a lot of work, but I've enjoyed it," he said.

The custom home market has been strong and should continue through '98, according to Kevin Clingan, owner of Kevin Clingan Home Design/Construction Company.

Lots of people are still moving into this area from out of state, Clingan said.

Clingan, who currently builds only custom homes, expects his business to be good in the middle to upper price range. "I haven't built a spec house in two years," he said.

Lots of new subdivisions were started in 1997 and still have lots available. Several developments are now expanding and adding new sections rather than starting new subdivisions, Clingan said.

Clingan said he feels there is a need for more housing targeted to middle income families in this area, but most builders are sticking with the current trend and building custom homes.

"The price of land is a factor," he said.

On the commercial side, Doug Jackson, architect and principal in Butler Rosenbury and Partners Inc., said '97 was a great year for his company both locally and nationally.

Jackson said he believes the proposed capital improvement sales tax continuation will be a big boost to construction this year, if it passes.

The other big thing for 1998, which will carry over into '99, is the funds from the law enforcement tax passed in '97, Jackson said. The new jail will be a $15 million to $20 million project, which is significant, he said.

At Butler Rosenbury, the staff has increased to 40 people with the addition of 10 employees in '97.

"And we're only adding to keep up," Jackson said.

Jackson said he sees steady growth for the rest of the millennium, and his company plans to keep up with the market.

"Our motto is: We will either find a way or make one," he said.

Suppliers, too, have a positive outlook for 1998.

Elise Crain, marketing manager for Increte of the Ozarks, said she's expecting the company to have one of its best years.

"As we move toward the new century, there are new products and new uses for old products," she said.

Contractors are asking about insulating factors and decorative forms of concrete, Crain said.

Wayne Dixon, vice president and owner of Deville Steel Inc., commented that it's hard to predict at this time of year, but right now things look good in commercial construction.

"We have a pretty healthy backlog, which is unusual for this time of year," Dixon said.

Demand for steel products, such as rebar, provided by Deville Steel, is a good barometer for future building projects, Dixon added.

Louise Henson, executive officer of HBA summed up the '97-'98 turnover: "From the national and local level, business is good, and we expect it to continue. We certainly hope it does."

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