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Construction shows signs of recovery
Commercial construction is making a comeback, a local economist says.

Don Mathews, professor of economics at College of Coastal Georgia and director of the school's Coastal Georgia Center for Economic Analysis and Student Research, says commercial construction is showing signs of recovery nationally as economy continues its slow, steady recovery.

"It was not hit quite as hard as residential construction was," Mathews said of construction of commercial and public buildings.

Commercial construction projects are visible in a number of areas in Glynn County, spurred heavily by education institutions.

The Glynn County Board of Education is nearing completion of the new Risley Middle School, in southwest Glynn County, and is starting construction on both a new Brunswick High School on Altama Avenue and a new transportation center. At the same time, College of Coastal Georgia is constructing a new teacher education building.

A new convention center on Jekyll Island is complete and will open May 21. Two hotels on the island are on the drawing board. On the mainland, Southeast Georgia Health System is erecting a new medical office building on Hampton Avenue, in Brunswick.

In the restaurant sector of the economy, construction of a Logan's Roadhouse has been completed off Cate Road, west of Interstate 95, and a building to house both Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants is under way at Glynn Isles Market.

As for when residential construction will fire back up - that may be awhile, Mathews said.

That doesn't leave residential contractors completely out of work. Some have learned to adapt to the market.

Mike Jacobus is one of them. He's found a niche, having renovated and remodeled 14 houses in the city's historic district since moving to town nearly two years ago.

Given the economic situation, the timing could not have been better.

"Historically, people tend to remodel instead of build new during a recession," said Jacobus, standing in a stripped down house on Hanover Square he is renovating for himself. It and other projects have kept him busy.

Jacobus is not the only one who has succeeded in keeping a construction company going in a depressed residential real estate market.

Scott Beveridge has learned in the past few years that keeping his company intact requires double the effort for the same amount of business.

"I've been fortunate to have work. I have also learned that you can't be choosy," Beveridge said.

To stay busy, his company, Beveridge Construction, has shifted from taking jobs for new construction to focusing on remodeling homes.

The once thriving residential construction market used to provide plenty of new construction work, but when the real estate bubble burst in 2008, the market for new construction fell flat, as well. Many companies folded or went dormant.

Beveridge has survived by embracing a new philosophy. "It seems like this is the new economy. You have to double your efforts just to stay in the game," he said.

Economist Mathews doesn't see the residential situation changing much here in the near future. When there's a large inventory of houses on the market, prices tend to drop, making it cheaper for most home buyers to purchase an existing home instead of building a new one, he said.

Once the real estate inventory shrinks and home prices rise, construction will become comparatively cheaper than existing houses, causing a spike in new construction activity, he said.

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