With a number of new building projects in the pipeline, Bellingham was recently placed on a list of U.S. cities where construction activity is expected to grow rapidly over the next 12 to 18 months.
Bellingham is among 20 cities nationwide designated as “hot spots” of future building activity, according to Reed Construction Data, a company that provides business information to the U.S. construction industry.
According to Reed, Bellingham has an expansion index value of 6.79. Cities with index values of 1.0 or greater are viewed to be expanding. Those with values of 5.0 or greater are seen as anticipating rapid growth over the next year.
“The bigger the number, the better,” said Bernie Markstein, chief economist with Reed Construction Data.
Some of the major local building projects influencing the data include the Marriott Towneplace Suites hotel development, Whatcom Community College’s Health Professions Education Center, Western Washington University’s planned renovation of Carver Gym, the Orleans Place Apartments in Bellingham, and activity in the Fairhaven Marine Industrial Park.
Markstein said Reed’s expansion index assesses projects currently underway and projects in the design and planning stage, although projects still in development are given more weight in calculating the actual expansion value.
That value does not indicate that growth is guaranteed, Markstein said, only that there is more planned activity.
The “hot spots” in Reed’s reports tend to be in smaller metro areas, like Bellingham, Markstein said. That’s due to the fact that just a handful of major projects can move the index higher in smaller cities, as opposed to larger ones like Seattle, where more activity regularly occurs.
Several types of projects are driving the index up in and around Bellingham.
Markstein noted new construction plans for the Bellingham and Ferndale school districts, several major roadwork projects, new mixed-use buildings, and also plans for additional sewage and water treatment plants.
He said the hot-spot growth around the county is generally driven by each specific location’s main economic propellers, for example: energy in North Dakota, manufacturing in Wisconsin, and tourism in California.
Broadly, hot-spot activity currently seen nationwide is driven by energy, manufacturing, tourism and hotels, he said.
“Each area has its own little story, but at the same time there are some themes,” Markstein said.