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Construction industry gets together for a chance to build school facilities

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These days, everyone is feeling the pinch in their wallet and the effects a slow economy, including the construction industry.

Many general contractors and subcontractors are going out of their comfort zone to find more work for their employees to stay busy, and many of them gathered last Thursday to the San Diego Community College networking event.

Over 200 people reported to this free gathering put together by the community college district, the San Diego Contracting Opportunities Center and the Black Contractors Associations to bring together all facets of the construction industry looking to get more information on projects with the school district and the different general contractors.

The main focus of the event revolved around the ongoing and the future construction slated for the school district, which includes San Diego City College, San Diego Mesa College and San Diego Miramar College, because of Proposition S and N.

City of San Diego voters passed these school bonds back in 2002 and 2006, respectfully, and totaling $1.555 billion in construction cost.

“These buildings are more than steel and concrete,” said Rita Cepeda, San Diego Mesa College president. “These new structures will help students advance their education, build careers and foster future growth.”

Over the next eight years, 56 projects are slated to be either under construction or completed with all of them being LEED certified and some scheduled to receive Siler and Gold rating.

None of the new structures will be for administrative faculty or sports venues and with the exception of parking structures; they will all be classrooms and other educational setting.

“Tax payers would only support facilities that would allow for education advancement like vocational facilities and classrooms,” explained Constance M. Carroll, chancellor for the school district.

David Umstot, vice chancellor of facilities for the school district, said that the current projects under way, which include renovations of buildings at City College and new faculties at Mesa and Miramar colleges are all on scheduled, but also noted that the bids for them came well under what the district estimated the construction cost to be.

“The bids we have been getting are 15 to 18 percent lower than what are estimates were,” he continued. “I believe it’s a number of factors including that the slow economy in the housing market makes for more competition, which is driving down the cost to do business.”

He added that because of this, there might be room to add more amenities to projects, but added that the district would wait and see if the bids keep continuing to be lower than expected before acting.

Over 15 general contractors attended the event including the larger, more well known, one like McCarthy, Nielsen and Turner Construction, but there were also new faces in the crowd.

All said there were pleased with the turn out, and talked about their goals and plans.

“It’s good to get out there and see new faces,” said Brent Bunting, project manager for Webcor Builders whom have a new office in San Diego and others in Los Angeles and San Francisco. “We’ve got a couple of projects we are working on including one for the Westfield University Town Center Mall and for UCSD medical school.”

“The event was a nice turn out,” added Ricka Iwatsu, senior estimator for C.W. Driver. “We were able to get our name out and broaden our sub base here in San Diego.”

Constance M. Carroll, chancellor, added that the school district “wanted this event to be a reflection of San Diego and to make sure small and minority owned businesses get a chance to network and get to know what projects are out there, and I believe this was accomplished.”

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