Originally created 08/31/96

Residential construction surges



Residential construction in the Augusta area jumped sharply in July after falling for two straight months in the peak construction season, according to one industry report.

The value of residential construction contracts in July increased 74 percent to $21.1 million from $12.1 million the same month a year ago, according to the F.W. Dodge Division of McGraw-Hill Inc., which issues monthly reports on construction contracts in Columbia, McDuffie, Richmond, Aiken and Edgefield counties.

Local industry insiders, however, said business was steady.

"I don't know of anything in the residential end that would be causing a jump like that. . . . We're seeing real normal business," said Bill Boatman, executive vice president at Meybohm Realty.

"More than likely it's one project somewhere throwing (the number off)," he guessed.

In May and June, the year-to-date total had been nearly even with the previous year, but July's sudden improvement finally put the year-to-date value above last year's by 9 percent - up to $144.3 million for the first seven months of 1996, up from $132.1 million for the same period in 1995.

The 9 percent increase almost keeps pace with the trend for the South Atlantic region, which was up 10 percent only a month before.

Ernie Blackburn, president of E. Blackburn Construction, said the 9 percent figure is encouraging.

"I think that's real good. This was not predicted to be a particularly good year," he said.

He speculated some of the 74 percent increase for July could be due to good new home sales earlier in the summer. Builders may be beginning to build homes to replace the inventory sold off.

"My business continues to be steady, which is the way I like it," he added.