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Public sector continues to do heavy lifting in construction industry

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It looks like the public sector will continue to be where most of the work is for contractors in 2011, according to local construction officials and architects.

“Public agencies are going to move forward with their projects,” said Brad Barnum, vice president of government relations for the Associated General Contractors San Diego chapter.

Defense and institutional industries will be where the bulk of the activity is next year, with contracts in street and freeway work also planned to be awarded.

“Projects are still coming from the military and school districts,” said Kevin Pollem, president of the American Institute of Architects San Diego chapter.

In November, four school bond propositions totaling $333.8 million where passed -- in San Marcos, Julian, Encinitas and El Cajon -- to improve and build new facilities. This adds to money that will be spent at the San Diego Unified School District, San Diego Community College District and Sweetwater Union High School District from their school construction bonds.

“These school districts are scheduled to ramp up spending,” said Scott Crosby, president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors San Diego chapter. “There is a lot of work in the pipeline.”

An estimated $843.62 million in military construction spending is slated for San Diego County, according to the Naval Facilities Engineering Command, about $26 million more than in 2010.

Crosby and Barnum both see a good amount of work coming forward in terms of road and street improvements. Caltrans is expected to award approximately $120 million in construction contracts for local freeways and highways.

“There will be a lot of road work made available by the county,” Barnum said. “The city of San Diego will also be looking to expand and repair sewer lines, so there will be underground work.”

As far as the private sector, many believe there will be little work in this industry.

Crosby, however, is a bit more upbeat.

“Our members are casually optimistic,” he said. “Our electricians think there will be a lot more small office and tenant improvement work next year.”

Crosby added that his members said lending became less of an issue in the last couple months of 2010, and expects this trend to continue next year. This should give private developers some incentive to start building, he said.

“Financing will be there,” Crosby said. It seems, he added, private developers are putting themselves in a position to likely build in the third and fourth quarters of 2011.

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