The Journal Gazette
 
 
Saturday, March 11, 2017 10:02 pm

Huntington building up

Ron Shawgo | The Journal Gazette

In a normal year, the city of Huntington can expect one or two significant building projects. But last year wasn’t normal.

While the number of building permits in 2016 increased a modest 4 percent, the value of those projects skyrocketed, leading city leaders to believe vestiges of the Great Recession are over.

Five projects exceeded $1 million, led by an $8.3 million addition at Saint Anne Communities At Victory Noll. The city constructed a $1.9 million City Services building.

Total value of all permits was $27.3 million, a 168 percent increase over 2015, Huntington officials said last week.

"For that many large investments to take place, it signals that employers are growing and that is validated by the record low unemployment numbers," said Bryn Keplinger, director of community development and redevelopment.

The Huntington County jobless rate was 3.5 percent in December, the latest available, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. Allen County’s rate was 3.7 percent and the state overall rate was 4 percent.

In January, Allen County reported a 35 percent increase in the value of new commercial and residential construction last year, while the value of all construction – which also includes remodelings, repairs and roofings – declined about 20 percent to $690.4 million.

Among the large Huntington projects is 27 new houses valued at $3.4 million. New home construction in Indiana is on the rise, the Indiana Builders Association reported last week. Single-family building permits in Indiana increased 13 percent in 2016, the highest rate since 2008. That translates to jobs for residents and tax revenue for state and local governments, the report stated.

The Huntington construction comes as the city of 17,000 watches its largest employer, United Technologies Electronic Controls, cut more than 700 employees to shift production to Mexico. UTEC and Continental Structural Plastics, which filed for a permit to build a $6.4 million addition, are in an industrial park on Huntington’s southwest side.

"I certainly think it’s an encouraging sign that other places in the industrial park are (building)," Keplinger said. "But it’s about the investment in the community and not necessarily, at least in my mind, how that impacts the UTEC situation."

UTEC makes controls for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration units. Its first layoffs were scheduled for Friday, when about 50 employees volunteered for early separation, company spokeswoman Joy Curtiss said in an email. Employees get severance pay, medical insurance and college or vocational training reimbursement.

Keplinger prefers to focus on jobs related to the new construction.

"In prior years it would seem like we might have one or two big projects, namely one that would make up almost half of the overall permit value," Keplinger said. "And this year we just had, there wasn’t a single one, there were multiples."

rshawgo@jg.net


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