Even if it really is slow, construction activity a promising indicator

There’s a curious, at least to us, juxtaposition between the series of media events announcing large construction projects in the Grand Valley and the characterization that, overall, local construction activity remains slow.

By one count,  nearly a dozen projects are expected to soon begin in the Grand Valley — from the construction of a small franchise restaurant to the construction of a new and larger facility for Community Hospital. Other projects include a new hangar at West Star Aviation, a new administration building at the Grand Junction Regional Airport, a new classroom building at Colorado Mesa University and the completion of two vacant floors in the patient tower at St. Mary’s Hospital.

That’s not counting a number of other projects that are already under way, among them a new Mesa County Workforce Center, yet another student housing facility at CMU and no less than three separate medical buildings. And don’t forget: The new and improved central branch of the Mesa County Library is scheduled to soon open.

Nonetheless, the presidents of three construction companies interviewed by the Business Times for the cover story in this issue agree that, overall, commercial construction activity in the Grand Valley remains slow.

There’s no doubt the pace of current activity does remain slow compared to the frantic boom that preceded the latest bust. Moreover, the Grand Valley continues to suffer in comparison to other areas of Colorado that have experienced more robust recovery, especially the Denver area.

Still, any level of construction activity in the Grand Valley constitutes good business in that it promotes job growth and increased spending and tax revenues. By one estimate, the West Star Aviation project alone will generate $76 million in economic benefits to Grand Junction and $279 million in benefits to Mesa County.

In a broader sense, the construction of new and expanded facilities constitutes a promising indicator of an improving economy. Businesses and organizations that have long put off capital investments while waiting for better times finally feel confident enough to start work on facilities they fully expect will be needed to meet increasing demand. Confidence can be contagious.

The construction of aviation, CMU and medical facilities in particular strengthen three important industry sectors as well as the position of the Grand Valley as a regional hub for transportation, education and health care.

Perhaps it’s just a happy coincidence so many large construction projects have been announced at the same time and overall construction activity really does remain slow. But slow or not, any project constitutes welcomed business news.