Local News

Construction up in Highlands County

SEBRING - As Frank Montz supervised construction on a new building for Sherwin-Williams Paints on U.S. 27, he voiced optimism Tuesday about the future of the local building industry. "It's been slow for the past few years, but it definitely seems to be picking up," he said. Part of that was in residential. Between Jan. 1, 2012, and Sept. 13, 2012, the county had 22 permits with a valuation of $4.4 million. This year that increased to 37 units, including a duplex, with a valuation of $7.3 million.
Other permits, which include commercial, remodels, churches and government buildings, were 427 from Jan. 1, 2012, to Sept . 13, 2012. For the same time frame this year, they were up to 690 permits. In the city of Sebring, the Sherwin-Williams building was one of two commercial projects that received a permit this year. The other was a modular building behind the main building at The Studio, a day spa that has seen an increase in business. Aaron Bertl, the manager of the Sherwin-Williams store, said the business had been at its previous location for 19 years. That building on the west side of U.S. 27 had 2,000 square feet, he said, adding the new building, near Highlands Independent Bank, will be 4,000 square feet. "It's something we've needed," he said. The building will be able to house more inventory and allow for better service. It also will be more attractive, Bertl said. The business will have a design areas with hightop tables, wallpaper books and a gourmet coffee bar, he said. Until the new building is completed on Nov. 1, the store will operate out of a mobile center near the construction site, he said. Montz, the owner of Montz Builders, said he expects to be working on several commercial projects in the Lake Placid area during the next few months. The next project may be a new maintenance shop for a farming operation, he said. That's a lot different from during the past few years when they stayed busy by doing remodeling projects or working in other parts of the state. "If we had sat at home and waited for it (the business), that would have definitely been a problem," Montz said. Montz is becoming more optimistic about the future. "I wouldn't have said that a year ago," he said. He said he also believes that residential construction will continue to increase. As the glut of homes on the market diminishes, more new construction will occur, he reasoned. Mielke Construction in Lake Placid also has seen an upswing in business , said owner Bob Mielke. There hasn't been a large increase, but work has been steady, he said. Currently, they are working on a new house in Lake June Pointe. Bill Dailey, owner of W.C. Dailey Construction, said his business has its first new house to work on in four years. There's been a slight increase in new construction, but his business's focus has been on remodels and work on homes that have water or fire damage, he said. jmeisel@highlandstoday.com (863) 386-5834