MOA permits up 25%; jobs near 2005 peak


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Workers dot the roof of the Alaska Airlines Arena now under construction at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Both permit values and jobs are on the upswing around the state, and briefly touched peak levels of employment this winter because of the Point Thomson project on the North Slope.

Photo/Elwood Brehmer/AJOC

Alaska’s largest population center is growing much quicker than recent years, at least in terms of construction dollars.

Through May 31, the Municipality of Anchorage had received building permit applications for an estimated $302.8 million worth of work. During the first five months of 2012, $240.9 million worth of building permits were applied for — making for a 25 percent year-over-year increase in 2013.

Since bottoming out in 2010 with $144.7 million in permit applications for the time period, Anchorage has seen steady growth to the current high.

Municipal records show $276.7 million in permits during the first part of 2009.

The low figure in 2010 coincides with the lowest number of construction jobs statewide in the past decade.

Early 2010 began a stretch of roughly two years with about 16,000 construction jobs in Alaska. Those jobs peaked in mid-2005 at nearly 19,000, according to state Department of Labor and Workforce Development data.

Currently, there are about 17,000 construction jobs in Alaska, down from more than 18,000 earlier this year. Associated General Contractors of Alaska Executive Director John MacKinnon said most of the job loss can be attributed to seasonal North Slope oil and gas work that requires winter tundra conditions.

The workforce on ExxonMobil’s Point Thompson gasfield — at nearly 1,200 last winter — has been cut to about 550 positions, according to ExxonMobil officials.

However, MacKinnon said there is plenty of other construction work ramping up for the summer.

“On the building side there seems to be a healthy amount of work out there,” he said.

MacKinnon added that contractors who might have been worried about summer activity several months ago are now experiencing “significant backlogs” of work.

As of May 31, the City of Fairbanks had issued building permits for commercial construction with total space of 103,300 square feet and an estimated value of $24.8 million.

Residential construction in the Fairbanks North Star Borough has declined steadily since peaking in 2007 when a total of 981 cabins, single and multi-family residential units were built. In 2012, 363 such structures were completed in the borough. Real estate industry officials have attributed the decline in part to high home heating costs in the region along with the general downturn in the housing market.

The City of Wasilla has approved building permits for “tenant space” on commercially zoned properties totaling 10,563 square feet and 24,512 square feet of development with commercial intent through this May.

It had approved permits for 12,580 square feet of similar tenant space and 16,027 square feet of commercial development over the same period last year. Approval of a late May permit application for development of 44,000 square feet by Kendall Ford of Wasilla is currently pending.

The City of Wasilla does not track the finished estimated value of building permit applications it receives.

Monthly building permit data from Palmer shows 24 approved permits for $6 million of development so far in 2013, down from 43 for $13.2 million in 2012. Two large projects by the Matanuska-Susitna Borough totaling more than $7.5 million contributed to the increased dollar figure in 2012 year-to-date.

The city’s permit approval over the early months of the year peaked with 53 in 2006 for $6.8 million. Rapid subsequent decline saw 19 permits issued in 2009 through May for a value of $899,000, with a gradual rebound to 2012’s numbers since.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

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