Sable Homes builders explain local impact from hurricane devastation, labor shortage with WOODTV8

West Michigan builders are feeling the impact after three major hurricanes recently barreled into the Gulf Coast, Caribbean islands and southern U.S.

The rebuilding effort down south is driving up the cost of projects locally, like Sable Homes’ Paris Ridge development southwest of Caledonia. Fortunately, Sable President John Bitely said the company has what it needs to get the job done.

“Our vendors have already planned for our needs,” Bitely told WOODTV 8. “But it is tight. There isn’t extra stuff.”

Bitely said industry demands had already driven up costs of many building projects long before Harvey and Irma decimated parts of the South.

“Our vendors have already planned for our needs,” he said. “Supplies are already tight — manufacturers, whether it’s shingle-makers or dry wall-makers or the lumber or the timber that we use.”

It’s not just materials driving up costs. The industry was dealing with a serious labor shortage before the hurricanes hit.

One reason for the shortage is there are fewer people like Phil Van Popering on job sites these days. Twenty-five years ago, Van Popering went to college, got a degree in education and started teaching.

“Just really wasn’t what I wanted to do,” VanPopering said.

So he got into the construction trades. Today, he supervises projects like the Paris Ridge development.

“If you learn a trade and you become good at what you do, there’s a market for you,” VanPopering said.

Experts say that nationally, about 6 million construction jobs are unfilled. The shortages are expected to be exacerbated by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“How many people will go southern states for jobs?” wondered Bitely.

Read more from WOODTV 8 about how local builders are being affected by the devastation left behind by last month’s hurricanes:

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