JACKSONVILLE - When the homebuilding industry started its downward spiral years ago many tradesmen were forced to move and look for other careers. Now, local homebuilders are breaking ground again and want those workers back.
Skilled workers like AC Service Technician Bill Applewhite are back in demand. So are electricians like Tyler Roach. Both Applewhite and Roach say they are busy daily. Locally, the Northeast Florida Homebuilders Association says homebuilders are slowly calling back skilled professionals to help build homes in a market that's slowly rebounding. "What you're seeing now is an increase in prices in material and labor and that's why we need a skilled workforce and that's why the Association trains different workers in the different apprentice fields," says Northeast Florida Builders Association Executive Director Daniel Davis.
Applewhite has been in NEFBA's apprenticeship program for three years. He works on air handlers and heat pumps during the day for Service Expertsand goes to class at night. "People want to be hot during the winter and cool during the summer, so I look at this as job security," says Applewhite.
21 year old Tyler Roach has two years experience working for Moore Electrical Contractors. He's been an apprentice for one year. "As I drive around on a day to day basis I see a lot more homes going up. You know, big custom homes such as well as small ones. So I have a positive outlook on the future. I think the economy is coming back," says Roach.
After years of struggling to sell homes, builders may finally be turning the corner. At the same time, labor and materials prices are going up which means the cost will be passed on to the homebuyer. "The laws of supply and demand will come into effect. If it costs more to plumb a house or to put electricity into it the cost of the house is going to go up," says Davis.
Strong consumer confidence is what's needed to drive the economy higher. In September it hit a four year high. Some analysts expect the optimism to continue well into the election. In the meantime, Applewhite and Roach know they're fortunate to be employed in professions that not too many years ago were laying off instead of looking for workers.