Lockdowns in other states have helped Maine’s construction industry recover during the pandemic

Kevin French’s construction business received a boost early in the pandemic as other businesses closed in Maine.

Landry/French Construction was asked by Abbott Laboratories to convert the former Olympia Sports distribution center it occupies in Westbrook into a factory where it could produce rapid COVID-19 tests. He was given 90 days to complete the project, the fastest ever, and it took a lot of hard-to-find workers to do it.

The company was helped by exemptions to Maine’s mandates, which declared construction companies to be essential businesses capable of continuing more or less normal operations, unlike in Massachusetts and New York, where work was halted. Landry/French was able to bring in idle workers from a New York mechanical company to complete the project.

“They’ve basically been shut down,” said French, CEO of the Scarborough-based construction company. “It was a huge win for us.”

Health-related buildings, public works projects and demand for multi-family housing have boosted Maine’s construction market during the pandemic and helped minimize business losses. The $46 million in federal stimulus funds for highways has spurred projects, while Maine’s strongest population growth in nearly two decades has increased the need for apartments and multi-family housing in the state.

The Abbott Laboratories plant in Westbrook performing a 15-minute COVID-19 test, BinaxNOW. Landry/French Construction said rebuilding the former Olympia Sports distribution center for the tester brought in additional revenue at the start of the pandemic. Credit: Courtesy of Abbott Laboratories

Maine’s construction industry is recovering better than most of the country, despite labor and material shortages. Construction employment remained relatively stable at 30,600 in November. That’s about 0.3% below pre-pandemic employment levels compared to the national average of 2%, said Ken Simonson, chief economist at Virginia-based Associated General Contractors of America.

While the Abbott project buoyed Landry/French revenue in 2020, two delayed projects resulted in lower revenue last year. But both of these projects will help boost revenue this year.

There has been a significant amount of investment in public and private projects in the northeast, said Matt Marks, CEO of the association’s Maine chapter. Public works projects have been helped by less traffic, with fewer people coming to the office, although they have still faced escalating costs that have caused the department to write off tens of millions of dollars of projects.

Lower traffic volumes helped accelerate the $53 million rehabilitation of the Piscataqua River Bridge on Interstate 95 between Maine and New Hampshire, said Paul Merrill, spokesman for the Department of Transportation’s Department of Transportation. ‘State. Traffic volumes fell nearly 50% at the start of the pandemic, but are almost back to pre-pandemic levels.

“The project is still ahead of schedule,” he said.

Other projects have been spurred by demand for rental housing, said Jonathan Culley, managing partner of Redfern Properties, a Portland-based real estate, architecture and construction firm. Redfern has developed what will be Maine’s tallest building when completed in 2023. The 18-story multi-use project at 201 Federal St. in downtown Portland will contain 263 apartments, a coworking center, a hall fitness center and a common area on the top floor. .

Yet labor shortages have led it to extend project schedules from 12 months to 16 months, and some contracts contain escalation clauses in the event of labor price increases. and materials.

Completing the interior portion of a project adds a challenge because only a certain number of people can be safely in a room, said French, whose company is building the apartment building for Redfern.

“It’s unclear how COVID-19 will affect the workforce,” he said. “We try not to let our guard down.”

Comments are closed.