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Yuba City statistical metropolitan area bucks construction trend
The Yuba City metropolitan statistical area led the nation for the highest percentage of new construction growth between August 2011 and this year, according to an analysis of employment data by the Associated General Contractors of America.
Four hundred new jobs, or 24 percent more than in the previous year, were added in construction over that time period, bucking a trend where more than half of all such metropolitan statistical areas nationally either lost construction jobs or stayed stagnant.
Two high-profile projects might explain much of the surge: A new Sutter County campus for the Yuba Community College District north of Yuba City and the new wing of the Rideout Health Center beginning to rise in Marysville.
Brynda Stranix, chief executive officer of the Yuba-Sutter Economic Development Corp., said, in addition, the area has seen new construction jobs at Yuba College's campus in Linda, at kindergarten-12 school campuses and at other medical facilities.
"With education and health care, actually, both industries are trending in growth," she said. "And with health care, we're absolutely expecting it to keep trending."
In addition, Stranix said, several businesses are also expanding, and the trend appears likely to continue into next year.
Construction jobs tailed off dramatically in the last half-decade, as the homebuilding frenzy of the mid-2000s ground to a virtual halt and tighter lending standards by banks made it harder for private construction to start big projects.
Of the metropolitan statistical areas at the top of the list, Pascagoula in Mississippi as well as Bakersfield and El Centro followed Yuba City in percentage growth. Yuba City's metropolitan statistical area, which includes Yuba and Sutter counties, went from 1,700 to 2,100 workers in construction and related fields such as mining and logging.
The administrative manager at a Marysville contracting firm said there is another upside to the surge in construction.
"There are definitely positive signs, and we're awarding jobs," said Mary Langsdorf of Frank M. Booth, a mechanical contractor. Her firm is among those working on the Rideout project.
Stranix said because local firms are getting many of the new jobs, it's a boon to the economy when their employees then spend their money locally.
"That allows businesses like Frank M. Booth to stay around another 100 years," she said.
But with the memory of the downturn still fresh, Langsdorf said, time will tell if the trend persists.
"We're definitely optimistic," she said, "but we're always cautious."
With Yuba College, some of the caution makes sense. Yuba Community College District Chancellor Douglas Houston said while there's an ongoing project to upgrade the Lnda campus' library building, that should be finished within the next year.
After that, constraints on local property taxes mean the district can't issue more bonds for other projects.
But Houston said at some point more work will have to be done.
"We have buildings that have had little attention in the 50 years they've been standing," he said. "But we may have to go the opposite and mothball some buildings for a while until we work out the financing."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at bvandermeer @appealdemocrat.com or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.