Opinions Differ on Commercial Contruction's Status

By May, Bill | THE JOURNAL RECORD, June 14, 1990 | Go to article overview

Opinions Differ on Commercial Contruction's Status


May, Bill, THE JOURNAL RECORD


The Condition of the area's economy, like beauty, is purely in the eyes of the beholder.

The same question, "What's the condition of the local construction industry?," asked of four construction company officials elicited four different responses:

- "Some private money is being spent because private industry is now more optimistic," said Jim Gilbertson of Gilbertson Construction Co., 7210 Broadway Extension. "There has been some movement in the real estate market; I don't see any tremendous increase, but it's a good sign that things are turning around and people are willing to invest in land and real estate."

- "We're working at only one-third capacity right now and it doesn't look like it's going to get much better," said D.E. Lippert, chief executive officer of Lippert Bros. Inc., 211 E. Int. Hwy. 44 Service Rd. "Right now, we're taking anything we can find. It's a tough market out there and I feel that's the way it's going to remain for some time."

- "It's better right now than it has been for the last few years," said Joel Barbour, president of Barbour & Short Construction Co. Inc., 323 E. Mosier in Norman. "We've had some success in procuring contracts in the past year, so that may give me a little better view of the economy.

"There's less work to bid on now than in the few years preceeding this, but across the board, I'd say that we have an improved economic climate that's going to be reflected in this industry."

- "We have no business in Oklahoma City right now, in fact we haven't had for a couple of years now," said Dick Cooper, vice president of Cooper Bros., 7100 Classen Blvd. "Most of our work is out of state, partly because of the economy here, but we deal entirely with medical buildings and that market here is pretty well filled up.

"Some companies have left Oklahoma to find construction jobs because things are tough, but we've always done some out of state work.

"All our work is designing and builidng medical buildings and we did some of those in Oklahoma City, mostly as developments, but the big demand for our work is other states."

All four men agreed, however, that most of the construction activity in Oklahoma, particularly central Oklahoma, is publicly financed, that not many private projects can receive proper financing.

But that is changing, Gilbertson said.

"I don't expect to see much speculative building, but we're going to see more activity in the build-to-suit market," he said. "We believe in that.

"We recently bought a few acres on the Broadway Extension and we've already started talking with potential tenants for space in that area. That's the first time that's happened in a few months."

Though Lippert Bros. and Barbour & Short did depend upon federal construction projects, it is beginning to taper off with cutbacks in the U.S. Defense Department budget.

"There are a lot of schools doing some construction work right now, which is helping," Lippert said. "But there is not much money out there right now for pirvate construction.

"For the past year or year and a half we depended a lot on Tinker Air Force Base and Ft. …

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