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Uptick in new commercial construction activity this year

The estimated $120 million expansion at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate is being developed by Rida Development Corp. The first phase is a 55,000-square-foot conference center, expected to open in January 2013.

Business picked up for Central Florida’s commercial builders in first-quarter 2012.

During that time, 93 new construction permits were pulled in Central Florida, up 31 percent when compared to first-quarter 2011, according to HBW Inc., a building permit information provider in DeBary. Roughly 3,000 local temporary construction jobs may be created by those projects.

Further, the top 25 construction companies in Central Florida earned more than $545 million in revenue last year, up 8 percent from $502 million in 2010, according to Orlando Business Journal research. And those firms’ number of employees grew 17 percent to 1,190 workers, up from 1,017 in 2010.

The industry definitely is improving, said Richard Haines, founder and president of R.L. Haines Construction LLC, whose Central Florida revenue grew 6.7 percent, from $10.4 million in 2010 to $11.1 million this year. “There’s been pent-up demand and now everybody is starting to feel better on moving forward with work, but it’s taught us to always stay very light on our feet.”

Among the larger local projects that have begun or will get under way this year:

• An estimated $120 million expansion at the Omni Orlando Resort at Champions Gate, which will create up to 1,200 temporary construction jobs. The project is being developed by Rida Development Corp. in ChampionsGate.

• A $30 million, 150,000-square-foot distribution center in Orlando Central Park, which will begin construction in the next 60 days creating an estimated 300 temporary construction jobs.

The new facility is being built for Miami-based paper, plastic and janitorial supplier DadePaper Co. The developer is West Palm Beach-based real estate firm McCraney Property Co.

“What used to be mostly small projects, we now are seeing more of the medium to large commercial projects coming in,” said Bob Olin, manager at Orange County’s building division. “This seems to indicate the financial backing for large projects is out there, and people with a good business plan are willing to lay more on the line than a couple years ago.”

That optimism is part of the reason Steven McCraney, president of McCraney Property Co., decided to go forward on the DadePaper project. “The industrial side of real estate has shown two straight quarters of positive absorption of vacant space, so there’s demand — and I think people are tired of sitting on the bench.”

In addition, he said the competitive contractor market has resulted in cheaper construction prices, making it more enticing to build now.

And as the economy slowly recovers, more companies with capital will look at opportunities to expand, which will boost the construction industry even more, said Joshua Marinov, vice president at Orlando-based commercial contractor Lamm & Co. Partners. “Confidence is getting better and the nervousness is subsiding from those people worried that the economy will go bad again, which should help us moving forward.”


Jim Carchidi
Reporter- Orlando Business

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