The good news is that from the depths of the Great Recession, Rhode Island has seen a 50 percent increase in new-home starts. Unfortunately, that still puts the state at 30 percent of the average home-construction starts registered from 2000 to 2003 (and further still from the subprime-lending-fueled peak of later years). And well short of a level that can sustain the construction industry at previous employment levels.
Homebuilders have resorted to a number of strategies to survive, if not thrive, in this post-recession environment. They all are examples of what alert business owners do when they realize that the old markets aren’t coming back and the old way of doing things just won’t do anymore.
One simple solution for a builder looking to get more work is to travel farther afield for jobs. But that is not all. The aggressive builder can branch out into commercial work or bid for – and win – contracts to remodel homes, not just build them from scratch. In both cases, the flexibility and initiative shown by these builders engenders optimism.
For there is no doubt that Rhode Island is not going to return to its previous level of home- building – at least one study states that the Ocean State will remain below 50 percent of its 2000 through 2003 average through next year. Thus, finding new markets and developing new skills is not just a stop-gap measure, but rather it must be the new normal. And the more companies formerly dependent on homebuilding come to that conclusion and push themselves out of their comfort zones, the better off the state will be. •