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Staying alive

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Articles - Nov/Dec 2012
Monday, November 05, 2012

Commercial and industrial

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Above: Renovation of the 1883 Oregon State Hospital in Salem went along with construction of a new hospital, completed in 2011. Two prisons, as well as a second hospital, will also be built on a site in Junction City.
// Photo courtesy Oregon State Hospital Replacement Project
Below: Although major medical construction may be slowing, the sector has been on a good run. Construction of Kaiser Permanente’s Westside Medical Center in Hillsboro created 2,000 construction jobs.
// Photo by Sierra Breshears
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When the economy crashed in 2008, commercial and industrial construction all but dried up as companies shifted into austerity mode and made do with what they had.

Not Intel.

Oregon’s largest private employer instead announced two years ago that it would build a $3 billion fab in Hillsboro. Known as D1X and scheduled for completion in 2013, the project, along with upgrades to facilities in Oregon and Arizona, was expected to create close to 8,000 U.S. construction jobs.

“Intel is the one wildcard in our home market that really impacts the trades here,” says Kelly Saito, president of Portland-based Gerding Edlen. “They can create an entire market with just one building.”

The company did just that again in late October when it announced plans for another massive round of new construction in Hillsboro that will add an extension to the D1X development fab, an office building, a manufacturing-support building and a multi-story parking garage. Two years worth of construction should kick off in 2013.

Intel’s construction impact reaches far beyond the new facility as well. An expanded Intel presence and 1,000 new full-time jobs will also draw associated vendors and high-tech firms, many of whom will need new or renovated places to work and live.

But not everyone has an Intel, and the action’s been a little slower elsewhere.

In Southern Oregon, Kelsy Ausland, president of Medford development firm Ausland Group, sees a small uptick in private projects. Even if it’s just a 70-stall parking lot outside a corporate office, it’s still a sign that business and employment is picking up.

“Two years ago, people weren’t investing in those kinds of projects,” she says. “Now they’re starting to.” But the Coast and most of the rural areas in the state “are really hurting for construction work,” says Mohlis.

One exception: data centers. Technology companies from Apple to Yahoo have been building data centers in Central Oregon and the Columbia Gorge in recent years. The latest: a 62,000-square-foot addition to one of Facebook’s two 332,000-square-foot Prineville data centers. Those projects employed roughly 250 construction workers every day they were being built. The social-media giant also has land for a third building as large as the first two should demand require it, says company spokesman Lee Weinstein.


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