The Springfield News-Sun provides the best coverage of jobs and the economy in Clark and Champaign counties. For this story the paper reviewed records of commercial and residential permits filed in Clark and Champaign counties for the past two years and sought input from local experts.
The value of commercial building permits skyrocketed in both Clark and Champaign counties in 2015, largely because of a handful of multimillion dollar projects that began last year.
More than 70 permits for commercial projects were filed in Clark County last year, for a total value of about $23.8 million, according to Clark County Community Development Department. That's more than a 500 percent increase compared to the value of permits filed in 2014, and was largely due to a small number of large building projects such as an expansion at Yamada.
Just a few major projects can skew the numbers, local officials said. But it’s also potentially a sign that more businesses are willing to invest as the economy has improved since the Great Recession, said Bryan Heck, Springfield deputy city manager.
Residential construction also ticked up.
“Over the last several years you’ve seen an increase in terms of activity from the fact that the economy is strengthened and people are investing in their facilities, whether that be an addition, a renovation or new construction,” Heck said. “You do see both commercial and residential people investing in their properties.”
Of the projects in Clark County, the largest was a $4.5 million commercial permit for an expansion at Yamada North America Inc. in South Charleston. Last summer, the company pledged to add 100 jobs as part of a $15.2 million expansion. That includes plans to add 73,000 square feet at its facility at 9000 Columbus-Cincinnati Road, which will include more production and dock space, as well as an office, training areas and locker rooms.
In addition, Vancrest Health Care Centers received a permit for $3.8 million of work as part of a roughly $5 million expansion that will lead to the merger of two New Carlisle facilities as demand for skilled nursing centers is expected to increase.
And Fellowship Church sought a $1.5 million permit for a renovation project that roughly doubled the size of its facility.
Despite the spike in values, only 20 more permits were filed in Clark County last year compared to 2014.
“On our commercial side, it has been and remains very steady,” said Tom Hale, director and chief building inspector for Clark County. “We have an increase in valuation but as far as the number of permits we’re about the same.”
The number of commercial permits filed in Champaign County also stayed fairly flat but the value ballooned, due mostly to a $27 million permit at the West Liberty-Salem School District. The district began a roughly $30 million renovation project last year.
About $6.1 million in commercial permits were filed in Champaign County in 2014, compared to $30.6 million last year.
Springfield and Clark County have separate building departments. Some of the biggest projects in the city of Springfield included a permit for $1.1 million of work for an expansion at Pentaflex, as well as $1.7 million renovations at the Tubman Towers apartment complex.
United Senior Services also received a permit as part of a $2 million permit construction project.
The value of Springfield’s commercial permits declined about 20 percent despite those projects, and the number of permits filed was nearly identical over the past two years.
However, both Springfield and Clark County saw an increase in the value of residential permits, a possible indicator the area’s housing market is finally improving, said Dan Kegly, president of the Building Industry Association of Clark County.
The value of residential building permits spiked 39 percent in Clark County in 2015, as local builders saw demand for new homes rise countywide. Kegly attributed increasing demand on a variety of factors, including concerns about rising interest rates, as well as an improving economy. The value of residential permits in Springfield rose about 9 percent from $2.2 million to $2.4 million last year, and the number of new residential units increased slightly.
Permits were requested for 37 new residential buildings in Clark County in 2014, but that number rose to 51 new buildings last year.
“I don’t think there’s any question we’re seeing an uptick of new residential construction,” Hale said.
There was a slight increase in demand for new single-family housing in Springfield last year, mostly in the Darby Glen Village development, Kegly said. But he estimated the number of new permits filed for new housing in the county roughly doubled compared to 2014.
“I know we were very close to doubling our residential new home build permits last year over 2014,” Kegly said.
Residential permits in Champaign County were relatively stable. It saw more than 320 total permits, including renovations, filed in 2014 for $10.4 million, compared to about 290 permits for $10.7 million last year.
The Federal Reserve raised its key interest rate late last year for the first time since the recession, and Kegly sees indications that the economy is improving. That’s driven demand for more housing, he said. New construction wasn’t focused in one portion of the county, but was fairly scattered throughout various areas.
“It’s mixture of both the economy, interest rates possibly rising and people are starting to think they need to move,” Kegly said.