Edmonton on the rise as building permits boom, says city’s chief economist

City of Edmonton chief economist John Rose in front of the Kelly-Ramsey project in downtown Edmonton on Thursday. Photograph by: John Lucas , Edmonton Journal

City of Edmonton chief economist John Rose in front of the Kelly-Ramsey project in downtown Edmonton on Thursday.
Photograph by: John Lucas , Edmonton Journal

Look out Calgary, Edmonton is building momentum, along with all those houses, condos, office towers, industrial warehouses and storefronts.

In fact, with a staggering value of $5.53 billion, 2013 was either the biggest year for building permits in the Edmonton census metropolitan area, or in the top three, according to the city’s chief economist John Rose. And the city is gaining fast on Calgary, which reported $6.04 billion in permit value for 2013.

“Right now, we’re neck and neck,” said Rose. “Typically we’ve been behind Calgary. We’re doing very, very well indeed.”

And, if the building permit for the proposed Katz Group tower that will house all Edmonton city employees is issued in 2014, there could be a change at the top.

“That project alone, if the building permit goes through in 2014, it’s going to really push us to the forefront,” said Rose. “If we get that permit in and some of the other permits related to the multi-family side of the economy, which is booming right now, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if we edged out Calgary in 2014.”

He was also pleased to report that “both Edmonton and Calgary are punching well above their weight nationally.

“We’re clobbering places like Ottawa and secondary cities. We’re behind Toronto and Vancouver but probably very close to Montreal, if not ahead of Montreal, and certainly well ahead of places like Winnipeg and Ottawa.”

According to Statistics Canada, Montreal’s permit value was about $7.7 billion, while Ottawa was $2.2 billion, Winnipeg $1.8 billion, Vancouver $6.6 billion and Toronto $15 billion.

Edmonton’s 2013 total did eclipse the 2012 number of $4.81 billion by 15 per cent, smashed the pre-recession high of $3.93 billion from 2007 by 41 per cent, and obliterated the 10-year average of $3.31 billion by 67 per cent.

“If you go back 30 years, there were one or two years back in some of the previous booms where we had comparable numbers. But if this result is not the best, it’s certainly in the top two or three,” said Rose.

The boom comes as no surprise to the Edmonton Construction Association, whose 1,200 member companies specialize on the commercial side.

“Everyone is enthusiastic and ready to see growth in their company and recruiting extra people, gearing up for a strong future,” said executive director John McNicoll. “We know Edmonton is leading the industrialized world in growth of GDP, so with that growth means growth in construction at all times.”

He said industry leaders are forecasting at least $800 billion worth of construction in Alberta in the next decade, and if it comes to fruition, it will put a squeeze on the construction workforce.

“There is a feeling that there are going to be intense difficulties keeping up with building demand because of the shortage of skilled labour and every part of the construction. You’re going to need site supers and project managers and all these people to be spread thin in order to keep up. You know, Alberta is open for business.”

And the construction business is a great one to lead the way in an economic recovery.

“The bottom line for people is this is a clear indicator that economic growth in Edmonton is going to be very robust,” said Rose. “It’s going to be very good news from the employment point of view.”

He said the jobs won’t be restricted to construction workers, or even contained in that industry, as associated fields will benefit.

“The great thing about the construction industry is that it has strong linkages to the local economy,” said Rose. “If you’re going to have an extra dollar of economic activity in the community, one of the best places to see it is the construction sector because it has such a direct impact on employment and related materials and services.

“So this is a good news story.”


Source: Edmonton Journal


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