Construction activity is picking up across Bluffton, giving area home builders and town officials fresh evidence that the economic recovery is taking hold.
The town issued 57 permits for new single-family houses during the first three months of 2012, compared with 50 during the same period last year. The town also has issued two commercial building permits during the first three months of 2012, equal to the number issued in all of last year.
"More calls are coming in, and we're having more interviews with people and more pricing of the jobs, also," Randy Jeffcoat of Bluffton-based Randy Jeffcoat Builders said. "There is more activity everywhere, which means ... more contracts than last year."
Permits were issued for new homes for a number of Bluffton subdivisions, including eight each in Hampton Hall and Hampton Lakes and 14 in Palmetto Bluff. Five permits for single-family homes were issued for both Rose Dhu Creek Plantation and Haven at New Riverside.
The uptick coincides with stronger construction activity across the U.S.
According to federal housing data from February 2012, the latest month available, total building permits increased 34.3 percent compared with the same period last year. The same data showed housing starts from February 2012 were up by 34.7 percent compared with the same perioda year earlier.
Although there is reason for optimism, Ashley Feaster, executive officer for the Hilton Head Area Home Builders Association, says local construction activity won't likely return to the levels of 2005 and 2006, before the recession.
That's not necessarily bad, she said."It would not be good to see what we had in 2005 and 2006 again," Feaster said. "That was overkill."
Town manager Anthony Barrett says tourism data and local housing starts have stirred a "great deal of optimism" locally and across the region that the economy is on the rise. The town's fiscal year 2013 budget, which is still being prepared, will anticipate that revenue and building activity will continue "inching forward."
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.