Construction contractors optimistic for post COVID-19 in Wisconsin

By Kyle Schwarm, ABC of Wisconsin Marketing & Communications Director

The backlog for commercial construction appears solid, according to ABC members who gathered this week to share their experiences on construction activity during COVID-19. Members indicate that while there are obstacles and work arounds necessary for a safe jobsite, most projects are moving ahead.

For the most part it’s business as usual, with extra safety precautions. Most projects that are more than 30% complete are moving forward, as are projects that are already in design. Contractors around the state report that bid letting is taking place and projects that are already in design are continuing.

A couple of areas where work has been halted is in health care and food production, which is to be expected. It is also slower than normal for service contractors. One other effect from the pandemic that concerns contractors is more competitive bidding in the future or even rebidding that could result from delayed projects.

Nationally, many construction firms are having to furlough or layoff workers, but that hasn’t occurred extensively for Wisconsin yet, although many contractors in Wisconsin have had employees not comfortable with the situation, taking time off from work.

Prior to the pandemic, ABC’s Construction Backlog Indicator was nearly nine months. Wisconsin contractors say even with the pandemic, they have a seven- to eight-month backlog with a positive outlook moving forward. Wisconsin has not yet experienced its peak number of cases, according the health officials, however.

Several contractors indicate there was capital out there for projects even before the COVID-19 stimulus package from the federal government. They are not anticipating this drying up, but instead, most of it would be available after the pandemic.

“There’s money out there to loan,” said one contractor. “This is completely different than 2008.”

“Our fingers are crossed,” said another member who anticipates future issues with products and materials. “Hopefully, we won’t see any delays or project cancelations.”


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