Members gather for building summit

MORE than 100 members of the local building industry gathered at the Lismore Workers Club yesterday in an effort to learn how to boost the number of building and construction jobs in the Northern Rivers.

Marty Brennan, construction manager of Lismore's Bennett Construction Company, said the meeting was a "confidence-boosting" exercise and one he hoped would get business flowing again.

"Since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) the building industry has tightened right up," Brennan said. "Nearly all construction is financed through clients, banks and insurance companies, but there's been a lot of fear and no one has been prepared to take risks.

"We are trying to formulate systems that will allow the finance sector to have confidence in the development sector."

The state of the building industry now is worse than it was during the recession of the late 80s, Brennan said.

"There are people in this room whose businesses are a quarter of the size they were two years ago," he said. "And a lot of people have gone out of business. But we are optimistic that things are going to improve. We are starting to see some opportunities pop up again locally."

Wayne Hanson, branch manager of G James Glass and Aluminium, said business for them was down 28% on previous years. In the past year alone they have had to reduce staff numbers by 25%.

"The tendering process for us has really slowed down," Hanson said. "The market has bottomed out."

Hanson said one victim of the downturn in the domestic building market had been the one-man-band builder.

"The one-man-band builders are being gobbled up by project home builders - it's a shame, but it's cheaper for people to build a project home," he said. "We are trying to factor that into our business."

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