Stepping into her role as Springfield Contractors Association’s new executive director, Megan Short has a bird’s-eye view of construction in the Queen City.
2018 Projection: Contractors will have no shortage of work but will continue to combat a shortage of workers to complete projects as baby boomers retire.
SBJ: What is the current climate of the contracting industry?
Short: There is no shortage of projects. The climate is looking great for us right now. It’s been a busy year, and it’s not going to slow down. Anytime you turn on the news, you hear about the city approving new projects.
SBJ: What is the biggest challenge?
Short: Manpower. When you have a meeting, you look around the room and see so many baby boomers or even older. We know at some point, they will be retiring. If we can’t change the mindset that these are good, high-paying careers, we’re going to really start struggling at some point. If people have to start turning away projects, that’s going to hurt development for the city as a whole.
SBJ: How is the SCA helping to combat a shortage of workers?
Short: We are working on it, but so is Missouri State University, so is Department of Workforce Development with the city and so are all of these other groups. We’re just helping with it. We’re helping set up career days at high schools, colleges and junior highs. We’ve worked with even younger than that. If someone calls and they say, “Hey, we want to know what an excavator does,” then I’m going to help them find somebody and we’re going to get them in that class. When you hear the word “construction,” everyone pictures the person building the house next door or fixing the street or the intersection down the road. Those jobs are important – we have to have them for economic development. But that’s not all that construction is. That’s what we’re really pushing for right now.
SBJ: What about apprenticeships?
Short: I think with the workforce development issue, a lot of companies have been starting to look at that more. I think they’ll eventually be our work-around for connecting with youth.
SBJ: Where are some more concentrated areas of local developments?
Short: We’ve got a lot of stuff in west Springfield, a lot of stuff coming on in east Springfield and tons of development in the outlying cities, so it’s really across the board. You’re also going to see more renovations in the areas that are already congested.
SBJ: What is Springfield’s contracting industry doing right and wrong?
Short: Springfield has the collaboration aspect down. Companies are always working together. They’re always willing to step up.
On the other end of the spectrum, we’re not the best at sharing our story. I would love for us to get back to that whole, “I built that. Do you see that other building over there? I built that. That was me and my team.” I feel like we’ve lost that a little bit in recent years. You hear more about what architect designed it, but not the people who built it.
Plus, we pay a little lower in this area. Springfield doesn’t pay quite as much as Kansas City and St. Louis, and although we have so much to offer here, that does hurt us a little bit.
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