The recent dearth of construction activity has been an opportunity of sorts for the Indiana-Kentucky Regional Council of Carpenters: During the slowdown, a large number of contractors were available to work on the trade group's new $13 million training facility and administrative building in Greenwood.
Competitive bidding helped keep costs down and officials didn't have to worry about navigating the tight credit markets because the project was funded mostly by council reserves.
“If the carpenters are afraid to build a building, how can we expect anybody else to?” reasoned council Business Manager David Tharp, who said the construction project took about a year.
The regional council, which represents about 17,000 carpenters, millwrights and floor coverers in Indiana and Kentucky, will unveil the 80,000-square-foot training facility and separate 33,000-square-foot administrative building Thursday evening.
The private dedication, set for 5 p.m. at 711 Greenwood Springs Drive near County Line Road and Interstate 65, is expected
to draw about 600 people, including Douglas McCarron, president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
Training and administrative functions have been conducted in two different locations in much smaller buildings—both about a third of the size of the new facilities. Its former training center was in a converted bowling alley on East 38th Street in Indianapolis, while the administrative building was located on South Madison Avenue near Emmerich Manual High School.
And employment in the construction industry is beginning to show signs of improvement, said the Arlington, Va.-based Associated General Contractors of America.
Compared to June 2009, construction employment last month rose in six states, the largest number of states to post year-over-year increases since October 2008, AGC said.
“It is encouraging to see some states adding construction jobs and the declines in others getting less severe,” the group’s chief economist, Ken Simonson, said in a written release. “But there’s little room to celebrate with overall construction employment at a 14-year low and demand for most construction services still weak.”
In Indiana, which released June unemployment figures on Tuesday, the construction industry last month shed just 400 jobs compared with a loss of 2,600 in May, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.
Tharp, however, isn’t concerned about the new training facility sitting idle.
Council membership includes 400 apprentices who will attend one-week classes each quarter beginning in September as part of a four-year training program that concludes with the completion of an associate’s degree in applied science from Ivy Tech Community College.
Apprentices won’t all be there at the same time, Tharp said, noting the center also will provide a “tremendous” amount of journeyman training.
A new training facility for union carpenters is long overdue, said John Griffin, executive director of the Central Indiana Building Trades Council.
“The electricians have a great facility on the east side, and the plumbers and steamfitters have a great facility on High School Road by the airport,” Griffin said. “We take a great deal of pride in the training that we do in our facilities and the work force we turn out.”
The new training facility has plenty of room, including a 40,000-square-foot “high-ceiling” shop where mockups of homes and commercial buildings can be constructed and torn down. Bridge mockups also can be constructed, and facilities are available for scaffold certification training.
A steam turbine certification program is offered to millwrights, who assemble and set precision machinery such as robotics and conveyors in plants, as well as turbines.
The training center houses six large classrooms that will be occupied by 14 full- and part-time instructors. In addition to specific trade training, the facility will offer apprentice courses through Ivy Tech in human relations, technical writing, history of organized labor and personal finance.
IKRCC built a training facility in Louisville in 2006. Altogether, the council has nine training centers in Indiana and Kentucky.