MOA permits up 25 percent; jobs near 2005 peak

Elwood Brehmer

Alaska's largest population center is growing much quicker than in recent years, at least in terms of construction dollars.

Through May 31, the Municipality of Anchorage had received building permit applications for an estimated $302.8 million worth of work. During the first five months of 2012, $240.9 million worth of building permits were applied for -- a 25 percent year-over-year increase.

Since bottoming out in 2010 with $144.7 million in permit applications, Anchorage has seen steady growth.

The low figure in 2010 coincides with the lowest number of construction jobs statewide in the past decade.

Early 2010 began a stretch of roughly two years with about 16,000 construction jobs in Alaska. Those jobs peaked in mid-2005 at nearly 19,000, according to state Department of Labor and Workforce Development data.

Currently, there are about 17,000 construction jobs in Alaska, down from more than 18,000 earlier this year. Associated General Contractors of Alaska Executive Director John MacKinnon said most of the job loss can be attributed to seasonal North Slope oil and gas work that is restricted to winter.

The work force on ExxonMobil's Point Thomson gas field -- nearly 1,200 last winter -- has been cut to about 550, according to ExxonMobil officials.

However, MacKinnon said other construction work is ramping up for the summer. Contractors who might have been worried about summer activity several months ago are now experiencing "significant backlogs" of work, he said.

As of May 31, the City of Fairbanks had issued building permits for commercial construction with total space of 103,300 square feet and an estimated value of $24.8 million.

Residential construction in the Fairbanks North Star Borough has declined steadily since 2007, when 981 cabins, single- and multi-family residential units were built. In 2012, 363 such structures were completed in the borough. Real estate industry officials have attributed the decline in part to high home heating costs along with a general downturn in the housing market.

The City of Wasilla has approved building permits for tenant space on commercially zoned properties totaling 10,563 square feet, and 24,512 square feet of intended commercial development through May.

It had approved permits for 12,580 square feet of tenant space and 16,027 square feet of commercial development in the same period last year. Approval of a late May permit application for development of 44,000 square feet by Kendall Ford of Wasilla is pending.

Monthly building permit data from Palmer shows 24 approved permits for $6 million of development so far in 2013, down from 43 for $13.2 million in 2012. Two large projects by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, totaling more than $7.5 million, contributed to the increased dollar figure in 2012 year-to-date.



Alaska Journal of Commerce