Skilled worker shortage in Springfield impacts local building projects

Published: Jun. 4, 2018 at 11:48 PM CDT
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A multi-million dollar project in Springfield may be delayed for several months.

It's not a problem with money but with a skilled work force.

The Bailey School was sold to a private developer with the goal of renovating it into a residential community.

"This is a fantastic building. We're just excited to have the opportunity to work on it," says Jason Murray.

He’s been a property developer in Springfield for nearly two decades. His firm specializes in preserving historic buildings like the Bailey school in north Springfield.

Originally built in 1930, Murray has plans to transform it into lofts. It will have modern amenities like a functioning greenhouse, raised garden beds for backyard farming and even a dog park.

"I love working on the old buildings and taking one that's been out of its service life or been abandoned and bringing it back to life and giving it another hundred years, hopefully," explains Murray.

The new walls of the structure have been framed. Electrical and plumbing are in the works. However, Murry says he’ll likely have to wait to finish the rest.

"In the early 2000s the building was going super strong. But when the recession came in 2008 the building permits in Greene County and across the country came to a screeching halt," he says.

The construction business had all but dried up back then.

Today, the industry is booming once again.

"There's just been almost ten years of not that much construction but over the last two or three years it's come roaring back. There just aren't the construction workers with the skills to do all the projects that are going on right now in our community," he says.

According to Murray, the average age of a skilled contractor is the mid-50s. He says that the demand for workers in a booming construction industry is a sign of a healthy economy.

He's just hoping interest in the field picks up so that projects designed to rehabilitate the Springfield community can continue.

"There's not enough young people going into these trades but there's so much construction. We need them," he says.

Murray has appealed to Springfield City Council to approve a delay in the Bailey School Project to avoid any building penalties.

He says that even with the labor shortages, a year from now I think we should be done.

Council will vote on whether or not to approve that delay in a few weeks.

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