In Ohio, Building Projects Put Workers in Demand

    27 August 2022

    The American state of Ohio's largest-ever economic development project is expected to put workers in demand.

    The project will need 7,000 construction workers. But currently, experts say there is a national shortage of people working in the industry.

    The semiconductor manufacturer Intel announced the $20 billion project earlier this year. When its two factories open in 2025 near Columbus, they are expected to employ 3,000 people with an average pay of around $135,000.

    Taylor Purdy, a pipe layer with Complete General Construction, answers questions about his experience working around the new Intel semiconductor manufacturing plant construction site on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
    Taylor Purdy, a pipe layer with Complete General Construction, answers questions about his experience working around the new Intel semiconductor manufacturing plant construction site on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

    But first, the area must be developed and the semiconductor factories have to be built.

    Labor leaders and state officials say Central Ohio does not have 7,000 extra construction workers. Currently, projects in the area include a large Hilton hotel in the capital, Columbus, and a $2 billion addition to The Ohio State University's medical center. Also, drug maker Amgen is planning to build a $365 million biomanufacturing plant not far from the Intel factory. Biomanufacturing uses biological systems to make medicines, food and industrial products.

    To win the project, Ohio officials offered Intel support equal to about $2 billion including 30 years of reduced taxes.

    Building is expected to go faster after Congress approved a spending law last month that aims to help the semiconductor industry and increase scientific research in the United States. The law gives more than $52 billion in support to the semiconductor industry. It also provides a 25 percent tax credit for companies that invest in computer processor plants in the U.S.

    "One of Intel's top reasons for choosing Ohio is access to the region's robust workforce," the company said. "It will not be without its challenges, but we are confident there is enough demand that these jobs will be filled."

    Federal government information says there are about 45,000 construction workers in central Ohio. That number increased by 1,800 from May 2021 to May 2022, which suggests a shortage given current and future demands.

    "I don't know of a single commercial construction company that's not hiring," said Mary Tebeau. Tebeau is with the Builders Exchange of Central Ohio, a construction industry trade group.

    Including overtime, pay for skilled tradespeople could hit $125,000 each year, said Dorsey Hager of the Columbus Building Trades Council.

    Jon Husted is Ohio's lieutenant governor. He said the Intel project is so big it will involve people who did not consider construction jobs before.

    "When you're willing to pay people more to do something, you will find the talent," he said. Talent is a word to describe skills or people who have skills.

    Will there be enough homes?

    Some workers in the home construction industry will likely move to the building construction jobs. The change will likely reduce the limited supply of homebuilders, said Ed Brady of the Home Builders Institute, a trade group.

    Ed Dietz of the National Association of Home Builders explained that reductions in the number of homebuilders risk a housing shortage. He said a shortage could slow the economic development that Intel is trying to create.

    Dietz asked, "How do you attract those business investments if you can't also provide additional housing available for the growth in the labor force?"

    The population of Central Ohio is expected to reach 3 million by 2050. That rate would require 11,000 to 14,000 houses built each year. That estimate came before Intel's project was announced, said Jennifer Noll. She is with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. In 2020, the region was able to build only 11,000 homes.

    "We know we've got some work to do as a region," Noll said.

    I'm John Russell.

    Andrew Welsh-Huggins reported on this story for the Associated Press. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    construction – n. the business of building things (such as houses or roads); the act or process of building something (such as a house or road)

    semiconductor – n. a material or object that allows some electricity or heat to move through it and that is used especially in electronic devices

    access – n. a way of getting near, at, or to something or someone

    robust – adj. strong and healthy

    attract – v. to cause (someone) to choose to do or be involved in something; to cause (someone) to like or be interested in something

    region – n. a part of a country, of the world, etc., that is different or separate from other parts in some way