Local construction stimulates local economy

Photo by George Walker | The Collegian Construction workers clean the windows of the Bluemont Hotel on June 30, 2014. The new hotel is expected to open September 17, 2014.

Danney Barr is a senior lab specialist for Venture Corporation, a construction agency based out of Great Bend, Kansas. Every day, Barr said he wakes up at about 5:30 a.m. and goes out to gather chunks of different roadways Venture is contracted to maintain. Barr tests them for a number of factors to determine if they need to be repaired or replaced.

Barr works in the construction industry, one in which employees go where the work is and seldom stay for very long in any one place.

“Most of the time we’re in and out of a town in about a month,” Barr said.

While the time spent in an area may be small, Barr said the economic impacts on local cities are significant.

“We spend money for food; we spend money on motels,” Barr said. “We actually have been to small towns where they made enough in the time we were there that they actually made a year of profit.”

Barr said he spends a lot of money in particular towns due to his work, and that he believes his peers probably spend about the same. In addition to housing and food, he said he will typically spend approximately $200 per week on fuel for his truck.

“I spend about $300 a week on motels and $100 per week on meals,” Barr said. “It’d be probably safe to say $400-$500 per week.”

John Pagen, vice president for economic development of the Manhattan Area Chamber Of Commerce, said residents seem to appreciate the role these workers play in the economy.

“I think with all the growth in the years, they appreciate the fact that construction workers are an important part of our economy,” Pagen said.

Pagen said the economic growth in the city carries economic ramifications for Manhattan. In the course of building the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, about 1,500 construction jobs will be created, representing about $200 million of construction income.

“It’s the kind of targeted high-wage job that people spend a lot of money here in town while they’re here working in town,” Pagen said.

Barr said convenience stores and fast food places tend to make the most money from construction workers. Barr said his company works throughout the day, without an isolated lunch period. He and those like him often get through the day by going to convenience stores and buying $10-$15 of food and beverages. Combined with the other expenses, Barr estimated his company’s employees alone spend approximately $3,000 per week in whatever city they are working in.

With all the construction going on in Manhattan, Pagen said he would not be surprised if Manhattan is helping the central plains’ economy with the money being spent on construction.

“Because a lot of the rest of the country is tight, a lot of people are coming into Manhattan because this is where the action is,” Pagen said.

Gregg Joyal, general manager of Fairfield Inn Manhattan, said companies often need rooms locally to house their employees, which means they help fill local hotels.

Pagen said construction is not only being done after people have bought property, but before as well.

“A lot of builders are building on (speculation), which means that there isn’t a buyer yet because they know the buyers will come,” Pagen said.

While this shows encouraging signs for growth in Manhattan, Pagen said the city is being careful about that.

“This town has gotten very far by being conservative and deliberate,” Pagen said. “We’re very slow and steady as far as our growth.”

Pagen said he does see at least one thing that could be a challenge in the future if Manhattan continues to grow.

“We’re ultimately kind of landlocked if you look at Manhattan on a map,” Pagen said. “That’s something that will ultimately affect our options as far as building more housing.”

Shelton grew up in the desert southwest. A native of Lancaster, California, he mostly grew up in south Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado before moving to Kansas and graduating from Junction City High School. He started working as a news writer for the Collegian in 2009 before taking a three-year break from college. He returned to K-State in 2013 and has since worked for the news desk, feature desk, as a copy editor and now as a sports writer. He enjoys tap dancing, writing anything possible, reading court opinions and watching Arizona Coyotes hockey.