NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Some Louisiana renovation contractors want some of the rebuilding business in Texas and maybe even Florida. But with the ongoing nationwide shortage of construction industry laborers could that negatively impact construction in this state.
Hurricane Harvey's devastating imprint on the Houston area will not easily be removed. And Hurricane Irma caused significant damage in parts of Florida, as well, together providing fertile ground for contractors and construction laborers.
"There have already been some groups of contractors that have gone over to Texas for Harvey. It wouldn't surprise me there's folks already on the way to Florida," said Jon Luther, Chief Executive Officer of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans.
He said the Houston area is not foreign to some contractors who are part of the homebuilders association.
"A lot of our guys are familiar with that area, the Houston, Greater Houston area, Beaumont, Port Arthur, so I know of some already over there with some crews," Luther said.
But the CEO of Louisiana Association of General Contractors said Texas' own labor force will not be absent from the post-Harvey rebuilding.
"Texas is a big state and actually the majority of that state did not flood, so I've talked to my counterpart in Houston and in Beaumont and they're expecting an influx of local labor, you want to say, from Dallas, from Waco, from Austin, etc.so I don't think it's going to affect Louisiana much, at all," said Ken Naquin of La. Association of General Contractors.
Still he and Luther believe the slow pace of rebuilding in the Baton Rouge areas after last year's flooding may result in more Louisiana-based renovation contractors, sub-contractors and laborers seizing opportunities elsewhere.
"What I do think it's going to affect is the contractors that were doing the flood renovations in Louisiana, Texas seems to be a much easier state to work in from that standpoint and so I have heard of quite a few of these renovation, these home renovation contractors already picking up and heading to Texas," said Naquin.
Luther said as is typical getting rebuilding funds to home owners does not happen quickly and is evident in the Baton Rouge area.
"I think they've got maybe $2 billion allocated to date, but now people aren't focused in on that area, they're thinking, they're looking at Houston, they're looking at Florida," he said.
"We had about 90,000 homes in their estimate Louisiana flooded, so you know, they're not even close to rebuilding a lot of those, so it's the residential guys, the small residential guys, renovation guys that are picking up and moving to Texas," Naquin stated.
And Luther said as an industry they are working to attract more laborers to the construction trade, including participating in a program at Angola State Penitentiary and reaching out to young people not interested in pursuing a four-year college degree.
"A lot of it is disadvantaged youth, youth that maybe have been through the judicial system, another thing we're really working on now is returning and separating military veterans, they're already very well trained," Luther stated.
But labor shortages and storm damage nearby aside, there is confidence that new residential construction in this area will not be stymied.
"I don't think that it'll diminish our ability to continue to get done what we're doing construction-wise, certainly from the residential construction context," said Luther.
And as for Louisiana's coastal neighbors to the west and east, there is concern about the construction worker shortage.
"I don't think it's going to be too much of an issue here per se, but I do have great concern that they're going to have enough contractors for those areas in Texas and Florida," Luther continued.