With nearly three decades of construction experience, Rick Quint is now in the top board role with the Springfield Contractors Association.
2020 Projection: Even with the uncertainty of this election year, everybody’s boats will be pretty full throughout 2020 with a strong volume of construction projects.
SBJ: How would you describe the current climate of the industry?
Quint: It’s pretty saturated at this point. I think the limitations on the market are dictated by the labor force today. The private side has been really solid. I don’t see it backing down any. I think the public side, we may be seeing some increases for 2020. The school bond election, some of those projects got started (last) year, and more will come on board (this) year. I see maybe more of the public side coming on board. But regardless, we’re going to struggle with labor.
We’re seeing more private projects coming alive. They take longer to get to life than they did in the past. I always used to say it took 18 months; today, I’d tell you it takes 24 months or longer to get a private project off the ground. … Within the city of Springfield, limitations on the private side is just lack of land. That may have as much impact as anything. The city itself, we’re pretty much landlocked. The city doesn’t seem to want to annex any additional property into the city. I don’t see any big areas where we can keep growing outside. This is really going to become a redevelopment community over the next 50 years. That’s something we’re going to have to figure out how to do. I don’t think we have an aggressive redevelopment zoning plan. … What empty lots are left in this community, there’s a reason they’re empty. They’re tough to develop.
SBJ: What local sectors of construction are still showing opportunities for growth?
Quint: Health care, because of the two major hospitals we have here. Health care has always been a good, steady one. The industrial market is really good. We’re seeing a lot of large industrial warehouses and industrial expansions going on. It started (last) year, but it’s going to continue (this) year – that the education sector is going to be strong, because of R-12’s bond issue. They’ve got some projects coming on for K-12, all the way through. Senior living and long-term care, those projects are going in all over the place, and I don’t see them slowing down.
SBJ: As economists talk about a recession looming, is there concern of a construction slowdown?
Quint: Springfield will lag behind. We’ll see it coming before it gets here. If we see slowdowns, it’s going to be slowdowns not necessarily in the amount of work, but how long the projects take to get built. That’s definitely a result of manpower, as in some cases, personally, we’ve had to pass on some projects simply because we don’t have the manpower to estimate them, manage them and build them.
(Missouri Department of Transportation), their projects seem to be given quite a boost from the governor’s announcement of $50 million for cost-share programs. … If the economy does start to suffer a little bit, that’s going to be a big boost in our arm. On top of that, the city’s announcement recently of the Grant (Avenue) grant that they got from the federal government is going to create a lot of opportunities down there along that street.
I’ve been here 27 years, and we’ve just been so resilient. We don’t have the big highs, and we don’t have the big lows. In 2008 and 2009, we saw a big low. It just took us longer to get there. If there is one, I don’t see it being near as bad.
SBJ: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data project 10% construction occupation growth between 2018 and 2028 – a gain of 704,000 jobs. Even with that projected growth, is hiring an adequate amount of skilled and qualified workers still a concern?
Quint: It is huge. I’ve never seen people be as protective of their employees and I’ve never seen employees be so mobile as they are today. The Springfield Contractors Association three years ago created four focus groups, totally independent and had a moderator come in and speak to them. What came out of those four focus groups, every one of them, was the same. The biggest issue facing our industry three years ago when we did it was workforce development. And it still remains at the top of every discussion you have: Where are we going to get the labor force?
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