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4/29/2012 4:14:00 PM
South Bend region's commercial construction market tight but coming around

Gene Stowe, South Bend Tribune Correspondent

Commercial construction, with its longer planning and permitting schedules, arrived late to the recession and is tracking months behind the recovery of residential construction. But observers say the upswing has started.

"People were working off backlog, and the backlog dropped off in 2010," says Steve Henry of The Robert Henry Corp. "Everybody just tightened up. 2009 wasn't bad. 2010 we ended up having a tough year. 2011 wasn't too bad.

"There's a fair amount of stuff to bid on, but it's a tight market to say the least. You have to do a lot more digging."

Don Fozo, executive director of the Michiana Area Construction Industry Advancement Fund, sees signs of improvement on the way.

"When I start to see home building pick up, you can anticipate six months down the year, nine months out the year, the commercial will start getting better," he says.

Unlike home building, commercial projects often require zoning changes, extensive design and planning, and a more complex financing and permitting process.

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