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Survey: Construction Industry Feeling Impact Of COVID-19 Pandemic

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Oklahoma builders are more likely than the rest of the country to have projects delayed during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to a new survey from the Associated General Contractors of America, 71% of firms nationwide are seeing project delays or disruptions. Here in Oklahoma, 82% of firms surveyed said that’s the case.

Tulsa-based Stava Building Corp. President Curt Hellen said they’ve had a number of multifamily, retirement, retail and event space projects pushed back.

"We have a project that has now been pushed all the way to at least fourth quarter of this year that was actually going to be a pretty landmark project for our local Tulsa Opera. And of course, it’s a little hesitation to sit shoulder-to-shoulder with somebody in a space like that," Hellen said during an AGC call with reporters.

Architects and designers have stepped up in the past year with work to improve things like building air circulation.

"So much so that we’re seeing some existing facilities ask for some retrofit style projects," Hellen said.

Most firms surveyed reported increasing costs, either because projects are taking longer or because of the need for personal protective equipment and sanitizing.

Hellen said in order to keep jobs they have going, builders have been taking precautions like contact tracing, sending home workers with flu-like symptoms and checking temperatures. He’s even heard of companies putting chips in hard hats.

"Construction is probably the antithesis if being able to 'socially distance.' You know, you can’t build projects remotely. You have to go to the project site, and you have to do work with your coworkers in order to produce a final product," Hellen said.

In AGC's COVID survey, 68% of Oklahoma builders said projects have been delayed because of shortages in materials, equipment or parts. And 45% think it will take another six months for their workload to go back to what it was before the pandemic.

Oklahoma firms were more likely than the rest of the nation to say their employee headcount is unchanged during the pandemic, but they were also less likely to have hired new workers.

Nationwide, 1,489 firms responded to AGC's COVID survey. In Oklahoma, 22 firms responded. Most responses came from firms earning $50 million or less annually.

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