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Bulloch sees a boom in school building
Impact helping entire local economy
110209 BIZ JULIA P 01 web
Brad Williams, vice president and co-owner of Dabbs-Williams General Contractors, stands under a frame at the site of the new Julia P Bryant Elementary. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
      Local school construction has become a real economic stimulus for Bulloch County resulting in a collective sigh of relief for many connected with large scale commercial construction in this area.
       "I feel that the building of new schools in Bulloch County is having a huge impact on the construction industry here," said Brad Williams, co-owner of Dabbs-Williams General Contractors in Statesboro. His firm is the general contractor for the construction of the new Julia P. Bryant Elementary School. "From suppliers to laborers, it is very, very tough right now in our industry, and this has been a big boost.
      With the vote by the Bulloch County taxpayers this past March to continue the one cent sale tax for school construction, the Bulloch County Board of Education has been able to continue an ambitious schedule of replacing outdated and deteriorating facilities.
      Construction on the $9.8 million dollar Julia P. Bryant Elementary began in September. Site work is underway for a $9.6 million Sallie Zetterower Elementary, and Portal High School and Middle School, scheduled to be completed in May, will total another $11.9 million. Statesboro based Pope Construction is the general contractor for both Sallie Zetterower and Portal Middle and High.
      Georgia Southern lecturer Ed Sibbald serves as the director of the Georgia Southern University Bureau of Business Research and Development. Sibbald said the money being spent on school construction has an important multiplier effect.
      "Our research suggests that an appropriate multiplier in this area of the state would be somewhere between 1.59 to 1.63," Sibbald said. "In other words, the money being spent on those three schools should result in around a $50 million economic impact to the local economy."
      While some may feel that spending millions for the construction of new schools is unwarranted at this time given the current state of the national economy, many familiar with school construction feel the time is perfect to build.
      "It is unique that we have three schools of that size going up in a community the size of Statesboro," said Ken Warnock, vice president of J. W. Buckley and Associates, a Swainsboro based architectural and engineering firm that designed all three schools. "We have schools going up all over the state, but this is unusual. However, everyone must remember that this a wonderful time to build, if you can manage it. The price per square foot has come down so much from material to labor cost."
      Warnock used the example of Southeast Bulloch High School and Julia P. Bryant. "Southeast came in at about $123 per square foot including site work," he said. "Julia P. is going to be $93 per square foot including site work. That is a huge difference."
      Warnock also pointed out that Statesboro is regional shopping hub which is of great benefit to local residents. "A good bit of the one cent ESPLOST sales tax collected in Bulloch County is generated from those who come there to shop," he said.
      Bulloch County manger Tom Couch said that the studies he has seen place that number in the 35 to 40 percent range. "I think that is a good, safe , conservative estimate of how much retail sales are attributed to those buying here that don't live in our county," Couch said. "Automobile sales and groceries are the two biggest components of tax receipts. The reality is that 35 to 40 percent of what is being spent on school construction comes from our neighbors. We are a regional shopping hub, and we are very blessed."
      Local suppliers are just grateful that large scale commercial construction is on the upswing for the time being. "Every little bit helps," said Jason Moore, a commercial construction salesman for Ken-brick in Statesboro. "We are supplying concrete block for two of the schools, and it is a big deal. This is allowing us to keep our operations running at the same level."
      Williams said out of the $9.8 million dollar contract for Julia P., 73 percent of it is going to local contractors, and 16 percent is going to contractors in surrounding counties. "You just can't imagine the impact until you see the numbers of people that are wanting to work," he said. "One day we had over 100 people out on the jobsite. I estimate that between 600 and 700 people will work on the Julia P. before it is all over. Most of these folks are men with families. It means the world to them."
      Jeff Pope agreed with Williams. "We just started to work on the Sallie Zetterower site and people are constantly coming up asking for a job," said Pope. "You wouldn't believe it. I am getting resumes from job superintendents as far away as Texas and Louisiana and all over the state of Georgia. We are spending and hiring as much as we can locally."
      The Bulloch County Board of Education plans to finish its construction schedule by building a new Mattie Lively Elementary on the site of existing Mattie Lively. Once the students have been moved into the new Julia P. Bryant, Mattie Lively students will occupy the "old" Julia P. while the new Mattie Lively is being constructed. That will bring the total spent on construction over a six -year period - including Southeast Bulloch High School and Statesboro High School - to $100 million .