Local News

Bidders hope stimulus projects will create, save jobs

Posted March 20, 2009 3:50 p.m. EDT
Updated March 23, 2009 1:25 p.m. EDT

Orange barrels / highway construction generic

— Contractors have put in bids for the first of 70 road projects that the North Carolina Department of Transportation plans to fund with $466 million from the first round of federal economic stimulus money.

DOT opened up 11 projects for bidding in March. The lowest bids it received totaled about $65 million.

DOT officials estimate that the first 11 projects will create about 1,900 jobs and generate $390.5 million for the state economy.

"North Carolina people going back to work and building North Carolina projects, we're very happy about it. ... It's important to the survival, I think, of a lot of businesses out there in this industry," said state Transportation Secretary Gene Conti.

The Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1 million spent on transportation creates 30 jobs. Analysis by the construction industry shows that every transportation dollar has a six-fold effect in the economy, according to the FHA.

"It has a pyramid effect of spreading down throughout the entire industry, as far as creating job opportunities," said Ricky Vick, vice president of the Wilson-based contractor S.T. Wooten.

According to the FHA's formula, two projects for which S.T. Wooten was the lowest bidder – a nearly $650,000 bridge replacement in Currituck County and a $6.3 million road extension in Brunswick County – could generate about 200 jobs, spread among S.T. Wooten, subcontractors, suppliers and other companies involved.

Vick said that the new, stimulus-funded projects will also help S.T. Wooten – which is also repaving a stretch of Interstate 795 that it developed cracks within months of opening – maintain jobs. The contractor has laid off about 200 people in the past two years, mainly in the past six months.

"What you're hopefully going to be able to do now is keep people employed that you currently have on staff, (and) hopefully prevent additional layoffs," Vick said.

The first round of stimulus transportation spending is expected to generate 14,000 jobs in total. DOT will award contracts for the remainder of the initial 70 projects by the end of June.

The state will receive another $269 million for transportation projects in a second round of stimulus money, as well as $103 million for transit. All told, North Carolina will receive $838 million in stimulus money for transportation and transit.

"It will help put people back to work and solve some of our transportation problems," Conti said.

Vick said that S.T. Wooten will keep on actively seeking those projects and might be able to bring back some laid-off employees if it gets enough.

"Right now, everything is a welcome project, and no project is too small," Vick said.