Growth in residential construction remains a constant in Columbia County.
A total of 696 home building permits and 20 commercial permits were issued for the first half of 2012, according to a county Development Services Division report.
The number of new single-family residences and townhomes permitted in the county through July rose by 34 when compared to last year; commercial permits fell by one.
Developer Mark Herbert said the fact that residential permits have remained steady through the recession sends a message to developers around the state.
“That’s why we have so many out-of-town builders now in the Columbia County area, because our permits are strong,” said Herbert, who also serves as the chairman of the Columbia County Construction Board. “Columbia County is the bright spot in the whole state.”
By the end of 2012, Development Services Director Richard Harmon predicts the county will have issued 3,000 home building permits in the past three years.
While young professionals, families and service members continue to move into the county, Harmon said several developers have told him that more retirees are relocating here, attracted by abundant medical facilities and a safe community atmosphere.
The county’s quality of life and high-ranked schools remain a huge draw for homeowners, Harmon said.
“It’s still the case,” Harmon said about quality of life bringing people to the county. “Probably the No. 1 reason more than likely.
“But now, we’re beginning to see other factors come into play.”
Harmon said the majority of businesses relocating to or within the county are moving into empty storefronts, such as Chain Reaction taking over the former Jump City spot in Evans and TBonz opening a restaurant in the former Stonecrest Steakhouse.
The country’s economic climate, Harmon speculated, is not very favorable for companies and local entrepreneurs taking business risks right now.
“What’s happening out of here is not helping us,” he said.
Herbert, who has built homes in the area for nearly 30 years, said he sees the housing trend continuing in the county.
“A lot of the other counties, I feel bad for them, because they’re losing population,” he said. “They’re moving out, but I’m thankful they’re coming to Columbia County.”