It is hard to dispute that the past three years have been difficult for West Virginia’s construction industry, and so far 2011 hasn’t seen much improvement. Employment in the construction industry is down approximately 10% this year over last year, according to The Contractors WVA.jpgAssociation of West Virginia Executive Director Mike Clowser, “We don’t see a lot of improvement for 2011. We’re hoping to see a greater upturn in 2012.”

Clowser pointed out there are areas of growth in West Virginia, including Morgantown (West Virginia University) and Fairmount (High Tech Corridor), where contractors and construction crews are working non-stop. But he says the Eastern Panhandle, once a hot bed of construction, and many other areas of the State, still haven’t recovered from the housing bust and the recession.

However, there have been several recent signs of improvement in the West Virginia construction industry, mostly in the infrastructure, education and energy sectors. These include:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded more than $1 million for water and sewer projects in Logan and Putnam counties. The funds are part of an $840,000 grant and $230,000 low interest loan. The projects will replace sewer collection lines for certain customers and also build new lines to serve hundreds of additional households. The Department of Agriculture awarded the loan through its rural-development program, which provides funding to rural communities across the country for infrastructure projects.
  • Developers are ready for groundbreaking at the Mingo County site of the proposed TranGas Development Systems, LLC coal-to-gasoline plant. The $4 billion Adams Fork Energy plant, which will be the largest of its kind in the world and the first of its type in the United States, will produce 756,000 gallons of gasoline from coal each day. Construction is expected to take four years and create 3,000 construction jobs.
  • Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s administration has doubled the number of low-traffic roads the state highway department intends to pave in 2011. According to the Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker, a new $11 million program, called the Secondary Road Renovation Program, will target roads that are traveled by 500 or fewer vehicles per day. Last year, before the secondary roads program existed, the state paved about 450 miles of low-traffic roads. “It’s our hope that we’ll be able to repair, fix and pave about 1,000 miles around the state that would not normally be a part of the paving program,” said Walker.
  • New River Community and Technical College intends to construct a $13.5 million administration building on its Raleigh County Campus. The college unveiled plans for the 55,000-square-foot building Friday. New River says it’s also going to renovate an 18,000-sqare-foot building on its Greenbrier Valley Campus in Lewisburg.

In West Virginia’s case, the numbers may not be showing the whole picture. While construction is down 10% from last year, there are a number of new construction projects planed throughout the state that may be the key to turning things around.

Cohen Seglias attorney Robert Ruggieri contributed to this post.