The Buffalo Niagara region has done something few other metropolitan areas have done in the past year - add construction industry jobs.
The Associated General Contractors of America, in a report released on Dec. 5, said the region added 3,600 construction industry jobs in the 12-month period between October 2010 and this past October, an 18 percent gain. In hard numbers the region has 23,900 people working in construction in October compared with 20,300 one year ago. Nationally, some 146 communities saw a decline in construction industry jobs, the report said.
"Finally, there's some good news to share," said Brian Turmail, association spokesman, during a review of the numbers.
Still, the local numbers could have been even stronger, Turmail said.
Delays by federal lawmakers on funding sources for a number of construction industry programs, mostly concerning infrastructure improvements, are continually delayed or sidelined. Delays have stalled a proposed $120 million New York State Thruway repair job near Batavia and a $20 million rebuild of the South Grand Island bridges.
"As good as the construction numbers are, they could have been and should have been stronger," Turmail said.
Turmail gets no argument from Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who took part in the association's review near the city's Larkin District.
Higgins said delays are forestalling key road and highway repair projects that are needed and will get more expensive if continually delayed. Higgins noted a study from a Nevada-based economist said every time a road project is delayed by two years, it's ultimate price tag increases by five times.
"The discussion has got to change in Washington," Higgins said. "People desperately need work."
President Barack Obama, in September, advocated for more federal dollars going for infrastructure work. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to make the same push this week as he seeks to revive New York's economy.
Studies show every $1 million invested in construction projects translates to 43 jobs in the industry.
Roseanne DiPizio, vice president of Cheektowaga-based DiPizio Construction Co., said while there has been more private sector-fueled projects taking place, including work in the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, public-sector work is getting harder to find. Her firm does significant public-sector infrastructure work but has seen those projects get delayed because of funding issues.
DiPizio said a Southern Tier road work last week attracted 12 bidders, a sign that public sector-financed jobs are attracting a lot of attention.
"The private sector is doing their part," DiPizio said. "We need government to do theirs."