Excavator sees boom in business

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— During more than two decades in the excavation business, Ed MacArthur has never seen clients so eager to get their construction projects out of the ground in late autumn.

MacArthur, the owner of Native Excavating, has been in business in Steamboat Springs for 22 years.

"In all these years, I've never seen people so eager to start this late in the year," MacArthur said. "Things have just gone ballistic. I don't know if it's just short term. What I'm seeing right now is a big push for a certain number of projects. At this time, I don't see any big projects for next spring."

MacArthur said it's not unusual to have a late push to accomplish things before the winter sets in. It is the volume of projects this year that is catching his attention. And the activity is across the board -- his firm is working on a residential subdivision (Sunray Meadows), commercial buildings (including Steamboat Ski and Bike Kare), a multi-family resort (The Chadwick) and large single-family homes.

Late October is the time of year when single-family home builders are either in a push to get "dried-in" before winter or want to finish a foundation so they can begin framing as soon as the site dries up in the spring.

The Sunray Meadows developers don't anticipate paving subdivision roads next spring but want to get as much infrastructure in place as possible, MacArthur said. The developers of the six-story Chadwick intend to pour concrete for the successive floors of the building throughout the winter.

Greg Dixon, president of Vectra Bank Colorado in Steamboat Springs, said he thinks optimism about the economy is the primary reason behind the late fall activity.

"After waiting for a long time, builders are eager to latch onto good news," he said.

Dixon said past due accounts at his bank are on the wane and that he is seeing land sales pick up.

Dixon also is seeing an increase in spec homes, and he surmises that contractors are encouraged enough about the economy to go forward and create employment for themselves. Taking out a construction loan for a spec house allows contractors to pay themselves a monthly "draw," Dixon explained.

"A lot of people need work for the winter," he said.

Rural Routt County is where the greatest growth in this year's construction activity has taken place, according to records compiled by the regional building department. The valuation of building permits issued in the county outside the city limits of Steamboat was up 42 percent to $40 million through last month. Residential construction accounts for almost all of that activity.

It is a different story within the city limits, where construction valuation through September was off 9 percent to 10 percent. Permit valuation was down from $41 million to $37.8 million.

The month of September saw six permits issued for single-family homes in Steamboat, four for multi-family units and six for commercial buildings.

The commercial building permits resulted in valuation of $1.038 million. The single-family permits totaled $1.57 million or an average of $262,000. Valuation for purposes of issuing building permits does not necessarily reflect the final construction value.

The 13 single-family building permits issued in the county last month produced a higher average valuation of $503,000. Total valuation was $6.5 million.

-- To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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