Contract Jobs Build Up Economy

School, road crews are hiring, spending locally

There's plenty of dirt flying at local construction sites -- schools and roads chief among them.

Renovation and new construction at Hutchinson schools is worth $78.6 million, and nearly half the work is done. The Siemens wind turbine plant will be a $30 million deal. Widening K-61 between Hutchinson and McPherson is a $105 million project.

With general contractors coming from Lenexa, Columbus, Topeka and Lexington, Ky., putting a pencil to the impact of those contracts on the local economy is difficult.

Still, it apparently is substantial, because those out-of-town general contractors are hiring subcontractors from this area, buying supplies and renting equipment from local businesses. They're also buying gas, food and water and renting rooms in local hotels, apartments or spaces in trailer parks for their out-of-town employees.

Nabholz Construction of Lenexa, which has the $29 million contract for additions and renovations to Hutchinson High School, is one such example.

The project has kept an average of 115 workers on site each day in recent weeks, but project manager Bob Hillman said only three of them, including the project superintendent, are from Nabholz, which is functioning as the construction manager.

USD 308 asked Nabholz to employ as many subcontractors from within 60 miles of Hutchinson as possible, and Hillman said it worked with 28 local subcontractors or suppliers.

Zenor Electric Co., Advance Termite and Pest Control, APAC Shears (asphalt), Ediger Enterprises (flooring), Garber Surveying Service, Masterson Design Group (landscaping) and Wray and Sons Roofing are some of the Hutchinson companies that won subcontract work.

A bit farther afield, Commercial Mechanical, Voegli Concrete, American Fence, Clayco Supply and Midwest Drywall, all from Wichita, and Koehn Painting in Newton also got contracts. And some of those firms employ workers from Hutchinson who for once didn't have to commute to work.

In all, Hillman estimated 80 percent of the work has been subcontracted to firms in Hutchinson or within 60 miles.

Nabholz also purchased or rented supplies and services from local merchants.

"We're buying our paint from the local Sherman Williams," he said.

Plumbing fixtures came from Ferguson Enterprises.

The company and its subcontractors also went to local merchants for small tools, office supplies, Dumpster service, drinking water, portable toilets, copying machines, furniture for the job trailer and safety equipment such as hardhats, safety glasses, fencing and signs.

Nabholz and its subcontractors also rented bigger items, such as storage trailers, backhoes, jack hammers, scaffolding and heaters. In many cases, Hillman said, it was cheaper to rent items locally rather than transport them from out of town.

"It works out good for the taxpayer and for us," Hillman said. "We don't have to listen to any excuses about why something isn't here on time."

Crossland Construction of Columbus has rolled its crews from one school project to the next. The company was in charge of additions and renovations at Hutchinson Middle Schools 7 and 8, then at Graber and McCandless elementary schools, which are wrapping up now, and then at Faris and Lincoln elementary schools.

Project Manager Deryl Sarver said Crossland has about 30 of its own workers on site, drawn from its bases in Columbus, Tulsa, Wichita and Dallas, depending on availability and the skills required.

Crossland has rented three or four apartments for its site superintendents and others who are in Hutchinson for the long term. Other workers who may be here for only a couple of weeks are put up in hotels. They all draw about $105 to $115 a week in per diem, which is then spent in local restaurants and grocery stores, Sarver said.

Crossland's own employees have done concrete work, steel erection and finish carpentry, among other things, Sarver said. But like Nabholz, Crossland has turned to subcontractors for 70 to 75 percent of the work, Sarver said.

Local companies include Technique Manufacturing for casework, Schmitt Paint, Wray and Sons Roofing and Miller Homebuilders. And Concrete Enterprises of Hutchinson supplied concrete.

M&J Electric, Booze Roofing and Central Mechanical of Wichita and Kansas Electric in Newton were other nearby subcontractors.

Wiens and Co. Construction of Hutchinson was the general contractor on the $8 million renovation and expansion of Wiley and Morgan elementary schools. Ground was broken on those two projects Feb. 28, 2008, and a little more than 21 months later, the schools will have open houses from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday so the public can see the completed work. There will be short formal programs at 6 p.m. at Wiley and 7 p.m. at Morgan.

The next big project to get under way in Hutchinson is Siemens Energy's $30 million plant at Commerce Street and Enterprise Drive for the assembly and production of wind turbine nacelles.

Gray Construction of Lexington, Ky., won the job as general contractor. Some of the larger subcontracts have gone to other out-of-state companies. But three have gone to Kansas firms: Berkamp Construction of Wichita for earthwork, P1 Group and Hoss & Brown Engineers, both of Lawrence, for mechanical systems, and Terracon of Wichita for soil testing.

Jill Wilson, Gray's vice president of communications and marketing, said another subcontract is expected to go to another Kansas firm today.

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