Lots of construction workers using big machines are busy in the North Central Ag Industrial Park where the Cargill plant is being renovated and the CJ Bio America facility is being built.
That's not the only place where there is local construction action, however.
Thanks to the growth represented by the emerging plants at the ag park, there's also plenty of work for smaller groups of construction workers in the city limits.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Construction workers Brad Hepp, left, and Chris Walker work on getting the last few pieces of roof plywood onto a home being constructed at 27th Avenue North and North 22nd Street. The pair work for Hart Construction which is a sub-contractor on the Doyle Construction project.
Mike Doyle, owner of Doyle Construction Co. in Fort Dodge, summed up the current state of the building business by saying, ''It's huge.''
He's not the only one with a positive assessment of the industry.
''Everybody I know is pretty busy,'' said Mike McCarville, of RoJohn Home Improvement Inc. in Fort Dodge. ''I think things are about as strong as ever.''
Don Woodruff, president of Woodruff Construction LLC in Fort Dodge, said the increase in local work has brought increased competition for the contracts.
The biggest construction jobs now under way are at the North Central Ag Industrial Park west of Fort Dodge. The CJ Bio America plant, where amino acids for livestock feed will be produced, is a $323 million project. The renovation of the former Tate & Lyle plant for Cargill is a $134 million job.
Additionally, there are some major water and sanitary sewer improvements being done to support those plants.
Large companies from out of state are the general contractors for many of those projects. Some specialty firms from other states have also been hired, according to Woodruff. But he added that there have been opportunities for local companies there.
The employees who will work in those big plants are expected to want new and remodeled homes to live in. The construction of those homes is dominated by local companies.
Doyle, who is the president of the Fort Dodge Homebuilders Association, said that between 2009 and 2011, seven houses were built annually in Fort Dodge.
He said last year 26 houses were built.
''I didn't see anybody from out of town building them,'' he said.
He added that 2005 was the last time more than 20 houses were built.
The number of remodeling jobs for businesses has recently doubled, he added.
There's an increased emphasis on energy efficiency in new homes, according to local builders. That's a trend RoJohn Home Improvement Inc. has embraced by building six houses in the last five years that meet the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Star standards.
McCarville said the ''building envelope'' - walls, windows, roof and foundation - are the key to an energy-efficient house.
The exterior walls in the houses his company builds are structural insulated panels consisting of plastic foam sandwiched between wood. The foam stops any air leakage through the walls.
''We wouldn't build any other way,'' McCarville said. ''I'm convinced over time people will demand homes like this.''
Doyle estimated that 50 percent of new houses are built with geothermal systems that use the warmth of the Earth for heating and cooling.
Woodruff said energy-efficiency practices are incorporated in projects his company does in conjunction with Woodruff Design, the company's architectural firm.
Local construction-related businesses employ about 3,000 people, according to Doyle. He and other construction company owners aren't worried about losing many of their employees to the large firms working in the industrial park. Local tradesmen, he said, will probably remain loyal to the companies that found work for them during lean years.
''The training program we offer has provided a career path at our company and our employees have remained loyal to us while encouraging other people to seek employment with us,'' Woodruff said.
An increased volume of required permits and paperwork is one of the significant challenges facing the construction industry, according to Doyle. He said he expects the Fort Dodge City Council will adopt an updated building code for residential construction this summer.