Special Report: Grand Valley Labor Shortage Part II

One thing vital to growth is of course construction. As the saying goes, if you build it, they will come. However, like many sectors in Mesa County, the construction industry is seeing a lack of experienced, skilled laborers.

Development, both residential and commercial, is all around us and while the work will continue, every facet of the construction sector is seeing a similar trend.

"Just the last few years we don't have the help coming through the door," Petty Construction General Superintendent Rob Cose said.

Contractors say one reason for the shortage of skilled help is the inflated wages that can be found in the energy sector.

"Major thing with the boom is doing is drawing guys doing local work for more money," Cose said.

While the energy industry feeds off of local contractors for things like access roads and infrastructure, competitive wages have also hurt some businesses.

"We've seen a tremendous rise in labor costs, just beginning positions have gone from $8 an hour to $10–14 an hour," Mays Concrete Vice President of Finance Dan Roberts said.

Taking a page from the agriculture industry's playbook, some companies are either exploring or are already in the process of participating in the H–2B program, which allows up to 66,000 visas for laborers from Mexico, allowing them to temporarily work in the U.S. legally.

"We have individuals qualified from Mexico and we're hoping it will be a good source of trades people for us," Roberts said.

Every business sector in Mesa County has had to adapt to the ever shrinking labor market, but even with plenty of projects either on the horizon or currently happening, experts say the work will get done.

"We're not looking at massive delays on projects, even though there is a shortage. We have the means to deal with it, either by scheduling things out or bringing in people from other geographical areas," Associated Builders and Contractors President and CEO David Myers said.

In regards to the temporary worker programs, one of the top priorities for the Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce for this year is to tackle the labor issue.

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