Construction boom coming to an end in Saint John
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012 6:56PM AST
The economic fortunes of Saint John have been closely tried to the construction industry for generations.
The city is coming off a construction boom that lasted more than a decade, but a slump - and perhaps a prolonged one - is coming, and construction companies and workers are preparing for a reversal of good fortune.
Workers were busy putting the finishing touches on a new police station Wednesday, which is part if the large Peel Plaza development in uptown Saint John.
They’re not sure where the next job site will be.
“Next year? Not much from what I hear. Hopefully we do get something coming up,” says worker Henry Lanteigne.
“Next year I don’t see anything on the horizon yet, but I take one year at a time anyway,” says worker John Price.
For years, construction workers in the area haven’t had to worry about the next job.
An unprecedented run of good fortune started at the oil refinery back in 1999 with the King of Cats project at the Irving Oil refinery. Since then, there has been a continuous string of major construction projects in southern New Brunswick that have kept thousands of workers employed, and not just local workers.
“It’s a 12-year span. We rode it,” says Stephen Beatteay of the Saint John Construction Association.
“We had employment levels in the construction industry of 100, 120 per cent in some trades. We had travel cards from all over the country working here, working in Saint John, which is just the opposite of where everything is going now.”
All of the city’s major construction projects are either finished or nearing completion, and there are no significant projects in the works for next year.
“There is nothing of the magnitude of the cycle we just came out of,” says Beatteay. “There are no refinery projects. There are no new potash mines that we know of. There are no LNG plants.”
Even highway construction spending will fall off dramatically as the New Brunswick government grapples with a huge deficit.
As for the economic impact, some experts say the economy is more resilient than it used to be.
“There’s so many other things that are going on in Saint John. It’s not like when the frigate project finished, it completely slowed and halted the economy for some time,” says real estate agent Jason Stephen.
“I think we’re probably a little more diversified right now.”
While there will be a lot less construction money circulating in the economy in the 2013, the order books aren’t completely empty.
There are a few school construction projects on the go, but nothing near the magnitude Saint John has witnessed over the past 12 years.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Mike Cameron