From The Ground Up

Wednesday, August 11, 2010 - 9:41pm

Construction jobs are a big part of our infrastructure in El Paso. And while we're fortunate to have big projects underway, when these drop off will the jobs go by the wayside, too?

"Construction activity in El Paso has climbed but that's due primarily to Fort Bliss," said Randy O'Leary, president of El Paso Builder's Association.

We've got big commercial projects in the works, like expansion at Fort Bliss Texas Tech, and UTEP.

"If you look at January 1 through June 31, building permits in El Paso are off right at about 19%," O'Leary said.

While commercial construction jobs have been shining, the residential sector isn't looking so bright.

"That equates to almost 1000 housing units at the end of the year and which equates to almost to 3000 lost jobs," O'Leary said.

"It might even translate to higher unemployment rate," said Tom Fullerton, economics professor at UTEP. He says we've been spoiled.

"Multi-million dollar project after multi-million dollar project," he said. "It's something that has really given El Paso an economic shot in the arm."

But that shot's about to sting. Because when the current construction projects are done workers may not have others to turn to. To avoid any economic hardship in the next few years, city officials are working keeping houses affordable, hoping to encourage buyers and builders. But experts aren't sure it's enough.

"It's too early to tell exactly what's going to materialize," Fullerton said.

"I can't answer that, I really don't know the answer to that," said O'Leary.

They did say there probably won't be a dramatic increase in the unemployment rate, but the key is to make sure El Paso's economy is diversified enough to keep us stable until more building begins.


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