This article was submitted by Stephen DeAugustino. Stephen is a Senior at UCF, double-majoring in Broadcast Journalism and Interactive Systems. You can visit his website at http://sjdnews.wordpress.com/
It’s cramped, hot, and uncomfortable in the lobby of UCF’s Facilities and Safety building. A group of men and women in business attire wait patiently in the small room all holding some sort of visual aid for their upcoming presentation. They represent one of the many construction firms in the area, and today they are about to enter their submittal; a chance to win the rights to build on campus. This time around it’s the new Classroom II building, but firms have been trying their luck on campus for some time now.
“We’ve got 23 submittals for the project today” Says Gina Seabrook, a senior computer support specialist at the campuses Offices of Facilities Planning. The number is impressive, but she is not surprised.
Glen Mullins was one of them. Mullins is the Vice President of PPI Construction, a construction manager that has been working on campus since 1995. They’ve built several constructs on campus, including the Recreation & Wellness Center, and are currently finishing up the new Physical Science building. One thing that Mullins has seen over the years is an influx in companies trying to build on campus.
“There’s been increased competition. Construction management companies follow the work, so where there’s work, the companies will show up to try and win that work.”
Seabrook has noticed it as well.
“Maybe before [the rush started] we would get nine to eleven submittals.”
Now the numbers are much larger.
“On one project we got 42 submittals”.
The low economy has effected the construction market badly. Mullins says that the local residential and commercial construction markets have taken huge hits lately. Contractors that usually work in those markets are leaving them to search for work elsewhere, which brings them to UCF. He isn’t the only one that has noticed. Raun Jessee has worked as a general contractor for the past few years in the area, and has done work for UCF before. He’s experienced it first hand.
“I don’t know for sure, but it’s bad. I’ve got guys coming up on my job site begging for work. It’s getting to the point where contractors are doing work for free just to keep their doors open.”
With no one building there isn’t much holding up the construction market, but institutional building plays a big roll. Mullins says the residential and commercial markets have sinusoidal behaviors, with peaks and valleys that tend to follow the economy. However, work on federal or state funded projects, such as schools, is always in demand. Mullins believes that these projects are what hold the market up.
The University of Central Florida falls into this category, and is no exception. According the schools five-year expansion plan, UCF plans to build 41 projects and spend $3,000,000 to do so. According to Mullins, that puts UCF ahead of any school in the state, including UF and USF.
There’s ten, maybe eleven state universities now. They all compete for the same state dollars, so UCF has done a very good job of lobbying people in Tallahassee who do the budgeting and funding to bring those dollars back to central Florida.” Mullins says.
UCF’s influence on the local construction market doesn’t stop there. While corporate entities and managerial positions benefit from the constant construction, it is the manual labor positions that take full advantage. Jessee says the difference is significant, as the campus requires more hands to build than residential or commercial jobs.
“You think of 41 projects, it’s not just 41 contractors. You got 41 general contractors, 41 mechanical contractors, 41 plumbers, 41 dry-wall hangers, framers, roofers. People don’t realize how much goes into one project.”
J.J. Haughland is the president of the Associated Builders and Contractors group at UCF. Haughland also agrees, but thinks the numbers are even more staggering. He believes that over 90% of the opportunities provided by the school are taken advantage of by manual labor.