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Construction Industry Stages Strong Comeback

February 14, 1995|Jack Searles

Ventura County's construction industry staged a strong comeback last year, but the recovery slowed in the final quarter as rising interest rates put a damper on home sales and building projects.

Still, there's a good chance that the industry will improve on last year's performance, says Ben Bartolotto, research director of the Construction Industry Research Board. "Even if interest rates go up another half point in the next 12 to 18 months, I expect the construction industry in Ventura County to be strong in 1995," he said. "Mainly, that's because the county's residential market appears to be strong."

Bartolotto expects a lull early in the year, followed by a resurgence after the first quarter. But the recovery could skid to a halt if the Federal Reserve boosts rates more than another half percentage point, he warns.

The board, a Burbank-based industry group, says construction of all kinds in Ventura County totaled $565.2 million last year, compared with $460.6 million in 1993.

In last year's final three months, however, the total increased only 8% over the same quarter in 1993.

In housing, the industry's most important segment in the county, last year saw construction of 1,649 single-family houses, up 41% over the previous year's 1,166. Again, a slowdown developed toward the end of 1994, with new houses totaling 391 in the most recent quarter, 20% more than 326 a year earlier.

"The construction mix is different in Ventura County than in L. A. and other areas that are mostly built-out," Bartolotto said. "In L. A., building mainly involves commercial and industrial projects. But housing leads the way in Ventura County."

In fact, non-residential activity in the county decreased last year, according to the board. But that could turn around as more Los Angeles-area companies decide to move to outlying areas, Bartolotto noted.

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