Illinois construction industry ‘poised for dynamic shift’ in 2024

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Judy Lamelza

Special to Chicago Construction News

As we step into 2024, the Illinois’ construction landscape is poised for a dynamic shift, presenting both promising opportunities and notable challenges. Following a period marked by economic slowdowns and construction setbacks, the state is now on the brink of a significant revival, with construction starts projected to see a seven percent increase. However, this resurgence comes amid fluctuating material costs, labor challenges, and the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes. How will these factors shape Illinois’ construction sector in 2024? Let’s delve into the details.

The construction forecast for Illinois in 2024 presents a landscape of contrasts—areas of strong growth amid ongoing challenges. It’s a testament to the resilience and adaptability of the state’s construction industry.

As we navigate these changes, the focus on sectors like manufacturing and infrastructure offers a beacon of hope, promising economic development and job creation. This mixed bag of prospects underscores the importance of strategic planning and innovation as Illinois steps forward into a year of transformation and growth.

A Year of Robust Growth Amid Challenges

Despite the economic hurdles of the past year, 2024 heralds a period of robust growth in Illinois’ construction sector. The Federal Reserve’s decisive action on interest rates has played a pivotal role in tempering inflation but also brought about stricter lending standards. This financial tightening notably impacted privately led developments across the nation.

Certain areas are expected to surge in activity, while others grapple with persistent challenges.

Factories Lead the Charge:  Manufacturing construction, already on an upswing due to increased onshoring efforts since the pandemic, is set to continue its upward trajectory in 2024. Investment in the sector is forecasted to hit a record $112 billion, driven by mega projects like electric vehicle battery plants and semiconductor factories according to Dodge Construction Network. This trend is not only a testament to the sector’s resilience but also highlights a strategic shift in America’s industrial landscape.

Bridges and Roads: Infrastructure, specifically bridges and roads, is another sector poised for significant growth. With 63% of the funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act already announced, there’s substantial room for further development. Project starts in this sector are expected to soar, marking a pivotal moment in Illinois’ infrastructure advancement.

Warehouses Experience a Downturn:  Conversely, the warehouse sector faces a downturn, primarily due to high interest rates and supply chain disruptions. Notably, significant players like Amazon and Walmart are scaling back their construction plans, signaling a structural decline in warehouse starts.

Office Construction Continues to struggle:  The traditional office construction sector is also expected to continue its decline. The shift towards alterations and remodeling over new constructions reflects the changing dynamics of workspace requirements in the post-pandemic era.

Governor Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity have celebrated major economic milestones, highlighting the state’s growing strength in sectors like:

  • Energy and vehicles
  • Economic development

The emphasis on innovative incentive programs like REV and EDGE has led to a significant increase in private investments, totaling nearly $5 billion in 2023 alone.

These strategic investments, coupled with the state’s robust infrastructure and highly qualified workforce, have attracted major companies. For instance, Salesforce’s new 57-story tower in downtown Chicago, incentivized by EDGE tax credits, created over 2,000 jobs, showcasing the state’s potential for large-scale economic development.

“Over the past several years, we’ve seen exceptional tech giants expand their foothold in Chicago as their leaders read the writing on the wall—Illinois business is stronger than ever, and there’s no better place to expand and grow. Salesforce is a shining example of that commitment, and their new downtown tower will be an engine for economic growth and innovation right in the center of the greatest city in the world,” said Governor JB Pritzker.

Top economists from major construction associations present a mixed picture for Illinois’ contractors in 2024. While there’s optimism about sectors like manufacturing and infrastructure, concerns linger over commercial and office constructions. The Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies and the fluctuating cost of materials add complexity to the sector’s outlook.

The anticipation of continued investment in data centers, driven partly by the surge in artificial intelligence, highlights another area of growth. However, the overall economy’s trajectory remains uncertain, with some predicting further downturns before an eventual recovery.

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