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Branco Enterprises Vice President Sean Thouvenot speaks to the need for construction employees in the Springfield area.
Branco Enterprises Vice President Sean Thouvenot speaks to the need for construction employees in the Springfield area.

In shadow of Vandivort expansion, stakeholders talk construction challenges

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At a unique news conference held at an active construction site downtown, business and community stakeholders spoke about challenges facing the industry and its need in creating economic vitality.

In the shadow of the Hotel Vandivort expansion, Sean Thouvenot of project general contractor Branco Enterprises Inc. led the discussion organized by the Associated General Contractors of Missouri for the statewide Build Missouri Week. 

Thouvenot pointed to August seasonally adjusted data from the state showing more than 122,300 people were employed in construction across Missouri, up by 600 jobs since June but down by 1,000 since August 2017.

Further, construction employers — like those in other industries — are having difficulty finding skilled workers to fill needed jobs, Thouvenot said, noting the need is so great, he’d make hires today if possible.

“Everybody thinks they need to go to college — not necessarily so,” said Thouvenot, vice president of Branco Enterprises. “You can find a good job in construction.”

A recent survey by the AGC of America found 80 percent of Midwest contractors reported difficulty finding hourly craft workers and 57 percent said they had trouble filling salaried positions.

However, data is trending upward in the Springfield metropolitan statistical area, according to AGC of America data. In August, construction employment grew by 5 percent to 9,600 jobs compared with the same month a year earlier, the data indicate.

Thouvenot introduced two apprentices at Branco who are part of that trend: Theo Chase and Jared Rogers.

“I’ve got a lot more to learn, and I want to learn it,” said Chase, who works highway construction. Rogers added the job pays “quite a bit better” than McDonald’s and other jobs he held before he had his son and needed to care for his family.

Also speaking at the event was Hotel Vandivort co-owner John McQueary, Mayor Ken McClure and Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce President Matt Morrow.

McClure and Morrow spoke to the value of construction in economic development. Data provided by AGC show construction contributed $11.4 billion toward Missouri’s gross domestic product in 2017.

“We have great assets. We have great strengths as a city,” Morrow said, noting Hotel Vandivort is a “point of pride for the community.”

As sounds of construction abound in the background, McQueary said the expansion project is on pace for a mid-2019 opening. The project is designed to add a second, 42,000-square-foot building northwest of the hotel’s current property, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting.


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Bill Smillie

The Missouri Job Center was also at the news conference and spoke about Programs being utilized to help employers hire and train more workers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018
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