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Building activity in county still on the rise

Posted: January 3, 2016 - 12:05am

Builders spent 2015 adding another 1,100 homes to Columbia County.

And businesses and the labor market remained steady in 2015 compared to 2014.

According to county records, there were 1,187 residential construction permits issued in 2015, just one more than was issued in 2014.

“From all the projections I’ve seen, we need even more housing than what we’re getting,” said Robbie Bennett, the director of the Columbia County Economic Development Authority.

Bennett said the county has seen more than 1,000 new homes built every year except the recession.

“Developers are getting the permits as fast as they can,” he said. “Next year, you’ll see another 1,000.”

From 2000 to 2014, Columbia County issued 18,000 single-family residential building permits, Bennett said, roughly the same as Aiken and Richmond counties combined.

The county issued 772 business licenses in 2015. There were 770 business licenses in 2014, according to county records.

In 2014, the average monthly workforce was 65,341, according to data gleened from the Georgia Department of Labor. In 2015, the workforce was slightly lower at 65,307.

The number of people with jobs was slightly higher, though: 61,945 average monthly employed in 2015, up from 61,481.

The county grew in residents in 2015, but that growth didn’t show in business data.

“When you look at our market, we are a bedroom community,” Bennett said. “Regionally, we are growing.”

That means jobs being added at Fort Gordon are listed in Richmond County data, but a lot of those new jobs are turning into residences in Columbia County.

In November, the unemployment rate for Columbia County was 4.5 percent, the state reported. That was a drop from 5 percent in October.

“Even your retailers who have no problem finding employees have help-wanted signs out front. That’s a good indicator that the unemployment level has dropped to a reasonable new low,” Bennett said.

Contractors working on businesses was more robust work in 2015 compared to 2014. The county reported 59 business contruction permits, including two hotels, up from 32 in 2014.

The number of permits for warehouses doubled, but there were none issued for apartments.

“We’re also looking at how we diversify the tax base and help offset the tax burden from the residents,” Bennett said.

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