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Building numbers up; builders unimpressed

By Michael Polhamus, Jackson Hole Daily
July 19, 2013

The number of building permits for single-family homes Teton County issued through June is equal to the number issued in all of 2011, according to figures provided by the county.

Further, the valuation of new residential construction in the county through June is nearly equal to that for all of 2012.

“After the Great Recession, I’m never going to say we’re out of the woods,” said Jed Mixter, co-owner of Two Ocean Builders, “but it seems as though it’s trending in the right direction.”

Mixter said most of his recent projects are residential rather than commercial and mostly new construction rather than remodels.

“Now there are opportunities to have larger projects,” Mixter said. “We’re happy to have it back.”

One co-owner of Jackson Hole Lumber was likewise guardedly optimistic.

“It’s better than it has been in the past, don’t get me wrong,” said Dennis Clark, an owner of the lumber store frequented by Jackson’s contractors. “In the last three or four years [new construction] has been nonexistent. And then there’s a little spark, and everybody gets excited. But how long will it last?”

The county issued 67 building permits for single-family dwellings last year and 55 the year before. So far in 2013, the county has issued 54.

By contrast, only 37 home builders took out permits through June 2012, and 35 through June 2011.

The value of Teton County’s new residential construction through June topped $98 million. All new residential construction in 2012 was valued at just under $107 million.

“I’m not disappointed that there is some activity in the community right now,” Clark said, “but who knows what’s going to happen.”

To illustrate the uncertainty in Jackson’s construction market, Clark said two other lumber stores in town — Builder’s Lumber and Sunrise True Value Home Center — have closed since 2008.

“When the [economy shrank] in 2008, things really dropped off,” said Roger Strout, principal architect and founder of Strout Architects. “They have been gradually coming back.”

Describing the difference between 2013 and 2012 as “not dramatic,” Strout emphasized that the volume of new construction in the county appears not to have grown significantly.

Comparing the number of projects his firm took on in 2012 to those in 2013, Strout said, “our work has increased a little bit.”

The types of projects he deals with are about the same as in recent years, he said, but compared to what his firm was drafting in 2008, he said, “in general the projects are smaller.”

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