Jan 8, 2013

School construction boosts local economy

The construction of 12 Orange County public schools in the 2012–13 school year is boosting the local economy by $224 million and the creation of 9,776 jobs. Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) has one of the most robust building programs in the state thanks to the 2002 voter-approved sales tax referendum. OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins made the announcement at the construction site of the new Eccleston Elementary School, which recently had its exterior walls erected – a major project milestone.  
“As educators, we’re excited about providing 21st century schools with the updated technology our students need to compete in today’s global economy,” said OCPS Superintendent Barbara Jenkins. “As members of this community, we’re very pleased our building program is generating jobs for working families, business for our private sector, and growing our economy.”
The construction projects include two brand new relief schools and the renovation or replacement of ten existing campuses. The relief schools, built to handle new growth, are in the Dowden Road/Randal Park area near Lake Nona and on Hackney Prairie Road near Ocoee. Both are elementary schools. Construction crews will renovate four existing schools over the next year. Work is wrapping up on another six schools. These projects directly create 5,566 jobs and another 4,210 resulting from the economic ripple effect. Those are jobs created from the expenditure of wages earned on the school construction contracts or projects by architects, engineers, carpenters, landscapers and other tradesmen who spend their paychecks on housing, groceries, gas, clothing and entertainment.
“The whole community benefits from the OCPS building program,” stated School Board Chairman Bill Sublette. “It improves our students’ learning environment and our area’s jobless rate. We have Orange County voters to thank for that.”

OCPS Chief Facilities Officer John Morris added, “Having spent my life in construction, I know how difficult downturns in the building sector can be. Putting experienced people to work in lean times is almost as fulfilling as building great schools for our kids. With the continued slow pace in housing and other building, we’re seeing good workers on our job sites and very competitive pricing.”
OCPS remains the second largest employer in Central Florida, with more than 22,000 people involved in the education of 184,000 students at 184 schools.
Construction at schools completed last year created more than 6,500 jobs. Those include 3,702 direct positions and 2,801 indirect jobs connected to the building of Aloma Elementary School, Arbor Ridge K-8 swing school, Cypress Springs Elementary School, Princeton Elementary School, SunRidge Elementary School and Middle School, and University High School.
School board member Kat Gordon, who represents Eccleston’s district, noted that a minimum of 23% of the money spent on Orange County school construction goes to minority, women-owned or small local developing firms.
“These projects not only provide thousands of jobs, but they’re with firms that keep the money in central Florida and support and grow our local talent pool.  When you add the OCPS required apprenticeship program for construction jobs, you can really appreciate how our building program benefits our community,” explained Gordon.
District policy states that there must be one apprentice for every ten journeymen in the mechanical, electrical, plumbing or fire trades.