For Charlotte's construction industry, Covid pains won’t quit
Plus: Coyote season in Charlotte; County Covid numbers continue falling; 'Staggering' CMS teacher exodus; Midtown tower set for council approval; Jeopardy contestants stumped by obscure N.C. city
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Amid a red-hot development boom, shortages squeeze builders; Prices of steel, lumber, roofing are way up, and delays become more common
Charlotte-area construction have been busy — like on these luxury condos underway in Myers Park. But it has been tough finding supplies and workers, which is causing delays of projects. (Photo by Kevin Young/The 5 and 2 Project)
By Lindsey Banks
Two years ago, Roger Hendrick, president of Hendrick Construction in Charlotte, needed eight weeks to get materials and supplies for a project. Now, he needs 24 weeks.
The serious materials shortage that’s been plaguing the construction industry throughout the pandemic hasn’t let up, and builders now say they’re especially struggling to source lumber, steel and roofing materials.
The fallout? Shortages are causing projects to be delayed and postponed — it’s a tough predicament for builders like Hendrick, who is currently working on hotel construction projects, and who just finished a Hyatt Place in south Charlotte’s Rea Farms.
Batson-Cook Construction has also felt the pain of these shortages, on the money-side. Rick Kiger, vice president of business development at Batson-Cook, said roofing prices are up 50%, lumber costs are up 300% and steel prices are up 150%. He said you can visibly notice stacks are lower at lumber mills.
Kiger has been in the Charlotte construction market for 29 years, and Batson-Cook is now at work on one of the highest-profile projects in the city, building the new Duke Energy tower on South Tryon Street.
The cause of the shortages are not new, or surprising. Covid disrupted supply chains, and a national labor shortage exacerbated delays. Charlotte did not stop growing, and the demand for new construction has exceeded the supply.
Some construction companies are desperate for workers to complete projects.
During the statewide lockdown in 2020, construction was deemed essential, but Kiger said that because some workers could make up to 90% of their wages from governmental aid, it was hard to find people to do the job.
The problem is big on a national level as well.
According to a survey released last month from the Associated General Contractors of America and Autodesk, almost nine out of 10 surveyed contractors reported they are having difficulty finding workers. Meanwhile, 88% said they are experiencing project delays and 93% said their businesses have been affected by rising materials prices.
By comparison, 52% of a similar-sized group of contractors said they were having a hard time finding enough workers in a 2020 survey.
Dave Simpson, CEO and president of the construction trade association Carolinas AGC, has seen the effect of material shortages on a larger scale.
“There is a huge demand [for] people to get into the commercial construction industry, and the demand for that has not slowed down,” Simpson said.
Manufacturers also experienced staff shortages during the pandemic, which slowed down material production and caused delivery delays. Hardware stores struggled to keep their shelves stocked with materials during the pandemic, contributing to shortages. People at home were buying up supplies to work on home renovation projects.
It’s not clear when manufacturers will be able to meet the demand again, but until then, construction companies all over the country are playing catch-up and dealing with delays.
These shortages mean companies have to plan farther ahead than usual, so they can keep the design, permitting and supply sourcing phases moving ahead. Hendrick is currently preparing to work on condos in uptown, as well as renovations to local churches and private schools.
“People continue to move to Charlotte and at a rapid pace, which is great for the economy, but it’s also making it difficult,” Hendrick said. “That takes time. So, that's going to continue to remain a challenge but also a positive growth pattern for the community for years to come.”
Lindsey Banks is a senior journalism major at UNC Chapel Hill. She was the Ledger’s 2021 summer reporting intern.
Related Ledger article:
“Why are there so many shortages?” (June 9)
Today’s supporting sponsors are T.R. Lawing Realty …
What’s up with all the doggone coyotes? Well, this is one of their peak seasons.
If it seems like people are a little more creeped out by coyote sightings — and nighttime coyote howlings — lately, there’s a reason for that.
October is one of the peak months for “urban coyote” sightings, because this is the time of year when juvenile coyotes leave their parents and go searching for territories of their own.
N.C. wildlife biologist Rupert Medford, whose 10-county district includes Mecklenburg, Union and Cabarrus, said that now that the young coyotes who were born back in the spring have hit about 7 months old, they’re “really out in full-force.”
So-called urban coyotes (meaning ones whose territory is in developed areas like suburban neighborhoods — not necessarily roaming uptown) are likely to be aloof and perhaps not as afraid of humans as ones who live in rural areas, Medford said. And right now, they may be wandering around during the day, as they roam to seek a territory to call their own.
Lest you think the region’s fast-growing development is to blame for bringing coyotes out of the wilderness and into our subdivisions, Medford said that’s really not the case.
Coyotes don’t tend to dwell in thick forests, because they prefer to be in the midst of humans, who are associated with seasoned food and small pets — two things coyotes love to eat.
But Medford said people don’t need to be afraid of the canids. Most coyotes are scared of people and will walk away when they see a human, even a human with a small dog.
However, if you have cats or small dogs, it’s a good idea not to let them out by themselves, especially at night. Coyotes are smart and will stalk small animals and even entice a small dog into a game of chase in an effort to lure it away for a kill.
This graph from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission shows the number of reported coyote sightings over the course of a year. Falyn Owens, a N.C. extension wildlife biologist, says 2021 is shaping up to be a pretty typical year in the number of calls they’ve received about coyote sightings.
Charlotte-area resident Bill Crowder and his wife, Bonnie, became something of coyote experts after their cat Hootie was killed by a coyote just outside their bedroom window in August 2019.
Bill Crowder, who is retired from a career in IT, read every piece of coyote research he could get his hands on and learned to spot tracks and scat and to monitor the pattern and behavior of coyotes.
The pair started a “Coyotes in the Carolinas” page on Nextdoor that now has about 1,460 members, and they regularly volunteer their time to help Charlotte-area residents who have had animals go missing to try to determine if a coyote could have been to blame.
They strive to educate people about how to protect their outdoor pets, so they advise residents on lighting that will scare coyotes away (it must be at the coyotes’ eye-level, they say), what fences to install (they should ideally be at least 8 feet tall, because coyotes can jump over fences as high as 6 feet) and what kind of noises to make to scare coyotes off before letting pets out into the yard (banging pots and pans works well).
Don’t bother calling county animal control if you see a coyote — that’s out of the department’s domain, unless a coyote is acting abnormal or aggressive. But you can do these things if you see a coyote on your property or in your path:
Make noise. Crowder tells people, especially those with small dogs, to carry an air horn on walks to scare away coyotes they may see. He also tells small-pet owners to bang pots and pans in the yard before letting pets out to scare away coyotes that may be in the area.
Keep dogs on leashes. Coyotes will typically avoid people, so pets tend to be safe a leash-length away.
Don’t turn and run. Coyotes are typically not aggressive toward humans, but it’s best to calmly walk backwards away from them. (This is true for any canine who may become aggressive.) — CB
Mecklenburg’s Covid numbers hit 2-month lows — but not low enough for county to remove mask mandate
Mecklenburg County’s Covid numbers fell again last week, continuing a weeks-long decline that places the figures where they were in late July and early August — before the county mandated mask-wearing.
County leaders, though, have shown no signs that they plan to ease up on the mask requirement, which went into place on Aug. 18 in Charlotte.
The number of new confirmed Covid cases averaged 220 a day in the last week, the fourth straight week that they have fallen. The figure was more than double that number on Aug. 18 and hasn’t been that low since July 21.
The number of people hospitalized with Covid averaged 269 a day in the last week, the sixth straight week that figure has fallen. That’s 27% lower than on Aug. 18 and the lowest number reported since Aug. 11.
An average of 8.2% of people tested for Covid were positive in the previous week, down from 13.2% on Aug. 18. It hasn’t been that low since July 14.
Those numbers aren’t low enough, though, to end the mask mandate. The measure passed by the county says the percentage of people testing positive needs to be below 5% for 30 days to end the mask requirement. In Mecklenburg, that figure was below 5% between mid-May and mid-July but hasn’t fallen to that level since.
Covid numbers around the country and in North Carolina have been trending downward in recent weeks. North Carolina has no statewide mask requirement, though many of its biggest cities and counties have their own rules. Numbers have dropped since August even in counties with no mask requirements, including Union and Gaston counties.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing a mask indoors “if you are in an area of substantial or high transmission.” It rates Mecklenburg as “high.” —TM
‘Alarming’ exodus of teachers: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has processed more than 500 teacher resignations and retirements in the first few weeks of the school year, more than the 169 processed in the same period the year before the pandemic. “I would say that it’s alarming,” said CMS’ chief human resources officer, who called the number “staggering.” Remaining staff have to cover additional responsibilities. (WFAE)
Battle over school funding ahead? A Wake County judge is expected to take action today on a long-running North Carolina lawsuit that seeks to compel the state to spend more money on public schools. It could set up a showdown between the state’s judicial and legislative branches, because leaders of the General Assembly say only the legislature, not a judge, has the power to determine school spending. (The Assembly)
McCrory outpaces competitors in fundraising: Former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory raised more money in the third quarter than his two main Republican rivals in North Carolina’s U.S. Senate primary. McCrory raised $1.03M, compared with U.S. Rep. Ted Budd’s $958,000 and former U.S. Rep. Mark Walker’s $110,000. The biggest donor to a pro-McCrory political action committee is LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda, who contributed $250,000 in June, Business North Carolina reported.
Big weekend for Truist: Last weekend was a biggie for Truist, as the bank moved 7 million customers to a new system. Truist formed in 2019 when BB&T merged with SunTrust. Last weekend’s conversion focused on former BB&T clients. Next quarter, the bank will focus on converting SunTrust customers. (Biz Journal)
Mulch fire: Four fire departments responded to a huge fire Saturday night at the Wallace Farm mulch supply company in Huntersville. It took several hours for firefighters to control the blaze, and it was expected to take more than a day to fully extinguish it. No one was hurt in the fire. (WSOC)
Midtown tower on agenda: The City Council is expected to approve a rezoning tonight that would allow a 300-foot-high tower in Midtown by Tribek Properties. The developer would be allowed to build either 350 apartments or 340,000 s.f. of office space, or some blend of the two, with 8,000 s.f. of retail on the ground floor. It’s a 2.1-acre site on South Kings Drive between 3rd and 4th streets. City staff and an advisory committee are recommending approval.
Dilworth land sale: A Chicago developer has bought a 1.15 acre parcel off South Boulevard in Dilworth for $8.3M, according to property records. The site, which is mostly a vacant lot, is on the corner of Worthington and Cleveland avenues — just a block or two from the intersection of East and South boulevards. The purchaser is CRD Dilworth LLC, which has a Chicago address.
Newly vaccinated Cam still wants to play: In a new video released Sunday, former Panthers QB Cam Newton says he got a Covid vaccination and has fielded offers to return to football, which he says he wants to do if it is the right situation: “You’re probably asking yourself, ‘Don’t nobody want Cam.’ That’s a lie. I’ve been getting offers, but the realization of it is, it has to be right.” Newton was cut by the New England Patriots before the season. He said he previously was hesitant to get vaccinated because of concern over potential side effects such as achiness and nausea that “weren’t beneficial to me.” (ESPN)
Loves me some internet: Mystery N.C. city stumps Jeopardy contestants
(We tried sending this one Friday, but the link didn’t work — sorry about that)
Unless you are a day trader, checking your stocks daily is unhealthy. So how about weekly? How local stocks of note fared last week (through Friday’s close), and year to date:
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