Against a backdrop of gloom for the construction sector, Enda Mullen speaks to the boss of a building company about weathering the storm
One would have to look a long way for some positive news coming out of the construction industry of late.
Recent reports have indicated there are 60,000 fewer people working in the sector in the West Midlands now than this time last year.
In the past week, it has been claimed by the Construction Products Association (CPA) that Britain’s construction industry is unlikely to grow until 2014, marking the worst decline in 30 years.
So you could forgive Sean Bowles, managing director for GallifordTry’s Central (North) Business Unit, for being downbeat.
But Mr Bowles said it is very much “business as usual” at the company which completed the new Edgbaston cricket ground development earlier this year and was recently unveiled as the preferred bidder the Resorts World large casino development at the NEC.
Speaking of the Resorts World project, he said: “We are now working with the client and the design team to develop the design with a view to starting on site in April next year.
“We are obviously really excited. This is a fantastic project, probably the best project in the Midlands, if not the UK at the moment in terms of scale and it’s something we are really pleased about being involved with.”
The contractor’s budget for the scheme is £80 million and it will be a two-year build programme, with the aim to be finished by April 2014.
As well as featuring a casino Resorts World will include a hotel, bars and restaurants and a retail element too.
Landing the deal follows on from a string of recent successes in the leisure industry for GallifordTry.
“It builds on a lot of good work we have been doing regionally as regards high profile leisure schemes,” said Mr Bowles. “There’s Edgbaston and on top of that we have been working in the city on a new four star hotel – Hotel La Tour.”
However, as far as the construction industry is concerned Mr Bowles admits times are tough.
Researchers for the CPA have predicted a fall in construction output of more than one per cent this year, followed by a 3.6 per cent fall in output for 2012, and zero growth in 2013.
“I think the reality is the market is still very dead and many projects are fought hard over,” he said. “ It’s very competitive, which is to be expected.
“The trick for us has been keeping close to our clients’ identified schemes from an early stage and developing the right solution that will give the client the best price but also the product that they want. Early involvement has been key for us.”
He also remains confident about the situation in the Midlands and Birmingham in particular.
“It is quite tough out there but at the moment we feel really positive about what is happening in Birmingham. We’ve got the hotel scheme on site, have just finished Edgbaston and are also working on a £30 million retirement village on the Hagley Road for Extracare. It’s the second village we’ve built for them in Birmingham and the fourth overall.
“We see lots of things happening in and around the city and that’s great. If you compare that to other areas – even the East Midlands – my feeling is that it’s a lot more vibrant.
“Another key point is that there is a coherent plan in place for the city in terms of the Big City Plan, which is probably the envy of a lot of other cities and the feeling is that will attract the investment that’s needed.”