MANCHESTER, NH – It’s no secret that the southern portion of New Hampshire has been coming into its own as an economic hub. With unemployment in the state below 3 percent, a busy real estate market, and a variety of tech initiatives happening in Manchester, the I-93 corridor is becoming a prime place for people to live, work and play. Adding to this landscape of growth is a new construction trades training center, focused on drawing people to the construction industry, which needs more workers to keep up with demand.
Adding to the economic mix is the recent sale of the 25,000-square-foot office building at 920 Candia Road, once owned by SemiGen, sold to the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. It was purchased for $1.96 million and is now under construction to turn the office space into a combination of shop space and classrooms. The location is right off of exit 6 on I-93 and close to I-293, making the property easy to access and highly visible.
The property checked all the boxes for the Council. Joe Donahue, business manager for Carpenters’ Local 118, which serves all of New Hampshire, said most of the people they serve are New Hampshire residents that live in the Manchester area.
“The building is perfect for our needs and it’s literally right next door to our existing training center,” Donahue said. “In fact, the building caught our attention far prior to it hitting the market. The space, location, and size aligns quite well with what we are looking to accomplish and we are excited about the opportunities it offers.”
Half of the building will be dedicated to shop space, with classrooms on the second floor. Classes will be focused on a wide variety of construction-related skills, including concrete, drywall, and framing. Donahue said about 200 people visit their current training center weekly, and they are hoping to see numbers as high as 400-500 with the new training center. Their goal is to open the new center by the end of the year.
The property deal is just one indicator of a positive trend in economic and real estate activity in the area, according to Brian Chirichiello of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Verani Realty, who noted that the commercial real estate market in the southern portion of the state has been picking up.
“We are starting to see good commercial activity from Manchester and south of Manchester, as it’s really considered the economic engine area of the state,” said Chirichiello. “The widening of I-93 and a new Exit 4A will make the area a hotspot for both commercial and residential real estate for the next 10-15 years.”
The goal of the training center is to keep the building trades growing and contributing to the state’s economic engine as well. According to a recent report, by the Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., three-quarters of the individuals polled reported difficulty finding people to fill skilled hourly positions – including carpenters – and this shortage of workers could stall the construction industry, even though commercial construction has been on the rise. Currently the building trades are struggling to attract new workers. Donahue said the current average age of a construction worker is 51, and their looming retirement causes a greater workforce gap in the construction industry.
“The only way we’re going to replenish our current pool is through training and apprenticeship,” Donahue said. He emphasized that the trades can offer high school graduates an opportunity to earn certifications while they work, rather than walking out of a traditional four-year college with large amounts of debt, and immediately start earning a decent living – he said average yearly wages for a construction worker are around $75,000 a year.
“It’s probably going to be the biggest training center in New Hampshire for building tradespeople,” Donahue said of their new location. “It’s also going to be the carpenters’ center, so the local will be located out of there, and it will also be a one-stop shop for those in the construction industry.”
To learn more about trainings offered by the New England Regional Carpenters Union, visit www.nectf.org.