TWIN FALLS • The nail guns are busy at 449 Arrow St. in south Twin Falls.
Workers on the roof attach moisture barrier sheeting for a base under shingles. Inside, others tend to the house’s frame. Seven men labor in various capacities on the Wolverton Homes construction site, including project manager Ryan Sawers, who oversees the activity.
The scene is being replicated many places across town during the current upturn in residential and commercial building.
“We have 12 projects going now and six more submitted to the city that we haven’t heard back about,” Sawers said. “Things have really picked up. It’s better this spring than it’s been for three years.”
Wolverton isn’t alone. Several contractors and sub-contractors are working at a fast pace, evidenced by recent building permit applications submitted at City Hall. Nikki Miller, administrative assistant in the Building and Engineering Department, said only nine single-family home permits were issued during March 2011, but 16 have been issued this month. Totals for this year’s first three months are 45 permits, compared to 19 in 2011.
“We’re also seeing a lot of remodels and additions,” Miller said.
For city Building Official Dwaine Thomson, the sound of hammers and power saws is sweet music. He said a “really positive” feeling exists in the local construction industry.
“The contractors I’ve visited with are bidding more jobs and are actually looking for help,” Thomson said. “They are finding themselves shorthanded, which is a good thing. Several contractors from the Boise area have come to Twin Falls to do some work. It’s that busy.”
His department cut positions for a plan reviewer and inspector about a year ago because construction was lagging. But the recent spurt has prompted the hire of a new employee to focus on both of those jobs, starting in two weeks. Thomson believes it will speed up the permitting process.
“Right now it’s a struggle to keep up,” he said.
Several things are prompting the building boom. Contractor James Ray points to the relatively low cost of lumber and labor, factors that have resulted in “building prices as low as I’ve seen in 15 years.”
Ray built 35 homes in 2011, but already has 20 under construction this year with another 16 to begin soon.
Affordable land and low interest rates also play a part in the industry’s revival, said James Wallace, general manager of Franklin Building Supply. Even the mild winter helped.
“The year is looking very bright,” he said.
TKO Construction is getting in on the action, with seven more homes under construction now than it had at the same time last year.
“Our local economy is fueling a lot of excitement in new construction,” said sales manager Chad DeBie.
As contractors benefit, so do their suppliers. Anthony Renaldi of BMC Select said their sales are up 23 percent this year compared to the same period in 2011.
Thomson, the city building official, theorizes that Twin Falls’ big commercial projects have stimulated residential construction. That’s led by Chobani’s new 1 million-square-foot plant on Kimberly Road, scheduled for completion this year.
“That’s been good for us, and good news creates positive feedback,” Thomson said.
The yogurt production company will help the area in another way, said Melinda Anderson, city economic development director. Chobani uses so much milk as its main ingredient that it will spur a “huge economic impact” to local dairy farmers and the Magic Valley in general, she said.
Anderson noted that a state study projects Chobani’s employment and the effect on services it uses will account for 3,000 new jobs and a billion-dollar impact to the area within three years.
Another big project will break ground this year when Glanbia Foods builds a 35,000-square-foot office and 15,000-square-foot research and development facility at the former Kruzer’s Nightlife nightclub location.
“It will make a big impact on downtown,” Anderson said, “and their new facility will have room to grow.”