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C. Oregon building blitz may bring labor crunch

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Jan 09 2014 09:06:43 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent looks at how a revived construction industry on the High Desert could bring a squeeze for firms needing workers

BEND, Ore. -

Out of the Great Recession, it appears Central Oregon is riding the wave of the great comeback.

"We're buried right now," Deschutes County Community Development Director Nick Lelack said Thursday.

Lelack says his office in Bend is slammed with building permit applications.

Residential and commercial buildings are popping up all over town and the county.

Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co. President Jeff Deswert said, "2014 will be our best year since the downturn in the economy."

Deswert's employees are building away in Central Oregon -- including a new church in NorthWest Crossing.

"We have optimism in private-party spending," Deswert said.  "There's possibilities of being able to add on folks as the work load comes to us."

Good news for an industry that already has a couple strong years under the belt.

"We're out of the slump,"Lelack said.  "We've increased all types of development activity faster than we expected."

Lelack said signs of improvement have been building on one another for the last couple of years.

"2013 marked the second-largest year in the past 20 years for commercial project value -- the first was 2012," Lelack said.

Lelack said he expects busy to be the new normal.

"We think it's a sign of long-term health," he said. "Especially with the diversification, and the variety of projects we're seeing, from resorts to downtown planning, and industrial land planning."

But with rapid growth comes a problem going back to the recession -- a lot of our workers left the area.

"There may be too many projects for how many people we have out there," said Andy High, vice president of the Central Oregon Builders Association.  "And there's some concern from our guys that I've heard: 'Is the workforce going to be here?"'

With new schools, resorts, hotels and expansions on the agenda, experts expect Central Oregon will draw workers back -- an exciting time for those embracing a new boom.

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