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Oklahoma construction companies build on stimulus funds

Oklahoma construction companies build on stimulus funds


BY ROBERT EVATT - Tulsa World and Newsok.com

Published: July 31, 2009

The flood of stimulus money for construction projects helped Oklahoma contractors hire thousands of new employees — though companies in some areas are benefiting more than others.

Bobby Stem, executive director of the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors, said the billions of dollars pouring into infrastructure work to help combat the recession has been a boon to his entire membership.

"We’ve seen it from businesses with hundreds of employees all the way to small sod guys,” he said. "It’s caused us to avoid massive layoffs.”

Stem said even the announcement of incoming money earlier this year helped infrastructure contractors.

He estimated the new hires across the state to be "in the thousands,” but he didn’t know a specific figure.

Where is the money?
The infrastructure contractors who make up the state association and the companies that support them may be getting the lion’s share of the stimulus benefits. Douglas Tapp, executive director of the Associated General Contractors of Oklahoma — a group that largely consists of building construction — said the impact so far on his membership has been minimal.

"There’s been a little bit of school work, a little bit of public work, but not much,” he said.

‘Shovel-ready’
Though much of the construction stimulus was initially focused on "shovel-ready” projects like roads, Tapp said he is optimistic that money for public buildings will make its way through the system.

A report by the Associated General Contractors of America released Thursday painted a more pessimistic picture, concluding that companies with and without stimulus projects are hiring at the same rate.

"While the construction portion of the stimulus is having an impact, it is far from delivering its full promise and potential,” Association CEO Stephen E. Sandherr said. "With construction unemployment at almost double the national rate, it is disappointing to see so many stimulus programs getting off to such a slow start.”

He did note that national companies receiving stimulus money are retaining employees than they would have otherwise. Sandherr also suggested that transportation contractors have gotten more benefits.

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