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Midwest starts lag national average

This story is the fourth in a series looking at the health of the construction industry in regions throughout the country.

Total construction starts in the U.S. Midwest region in 2021 climbed 10%, behind the national start growth of 14%, according to a Dodge Data & Analytics construction outlook webinar.

“The Midwest isn’t boasting quite that same fervor [as other regions,]” said David Reaves, senior economist at Dodge, during the webinar. “But it does have some strong performers.”

For example, the Midwest region has shown robust activity in the power and gas plant sector, said Reaves, specifically its solar energy and wind farms. 

Other growth opportunities in the Midwest region, which comprises Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin, include warehousing, manufacturing, and highway and bridge projects, according to Dodge.

Nonbuilding

For 2022, Dodge forecasts total nonbuilding construction starts in the Midwest to hit $44.5 billion, a 1% increase from a year ago. 

That is largely due to the growth in the power and gas plants subsector, which Dodge forecasts to hit $8.4 billion in 2022, a 49% increase from last year. 

There are a number of large projects in the pipeline for later in 2022 responsible for this growth, namely the $1.25 billion phase two and three of the Mammoth Solar project in Indiana, which upon completion will be the largest solar farm in the country. The $1.1 billion Harrison Energy Center in Ohio and a $700 million gas power plant expected to break ground in Wausau, Wisconsin, are also contributing, said Reaves.

But along with solar energy and gas-powered plants, Dodge forecasts wind farms in the region to further accelerate starts in the nonbuilding category, said Reeves. 

“While there’s certainly potential for solar investment in the Midwest, the real strength of the region is wind energy,” said Reaves. “A successful wind farm needs open spaces and high speed winds, which is exactly what you see in the plains of the Midwest.”

Wind farm projects that broke ground over the last 12 months included the $350 million Sapphire Sky Wind Energy Center in Farmer City, Illinois and the $293 million Jayhawk Ridge Wind Energy Center in Kansas.

Largest Midwest starts over last 12 months
Project Type Location Start month Value
Mammoth Solar Project Phase 1 Power Indiana March 2022 $475 million
Cardinal-Hickory Creek Transmission Power Middleton, Wisconsin February 2022 $423 million
Wisconsin Convention Center Expansion Recreation Milwaukee, Wisconsin November 2021 $396 million
UIHC North Liberty Hospital Campus Healthcare North Liberty, Iowa January 2022 $395 million
Sapphire Sky Wind Farm Power Farmer City, Illinois February 2022 $350 million
Atlas Power Data Center Ph I Data center Williston, North Dakota March 2022 $317 million
Qore Cargill Manufacturing Eddyville, Iowa October 2021 $300 million
195 MW Jayhawk Ridge Wind Farm Power Kansas October 2021 $293 million
Sherwin Williams R&D Facility Manufacturing Brecksville, Ohio December 2021 $250 million
OH/DOT Reconstruction (Proj#210624) Street Columbus, Ohio February 2022 $243 million

SOURCE: Dodge Data & Analytics

Dodge projects highways and bridges starts to reach $21.67 billion in the Midwest for 2022, a 1% increase from a year ago. The sector should experience much more growth in 2023 due to the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, said Reaves. 

Some of the largest street projects expected to break ground in 2022 include the $430 million I-70 project in Anderson, Indiana and the first phase of the $300 million U.S. Highway 69 project in Overland Park, Kansas. 

Manufacturing

Dodge forecasts Midwest manufacturing starts to reach $7.65 billion in 2022, a 34% increase from a year ago. Similar to the rest of the country, regional starts in the sector are increasing due to a renewed push to bring back more manufacturing plants to the U.S.

Major Midwest manufacturing starts included the $300 million Qore Cargill project in Eddyville, Iowa and the $250 million Sherwin Williams research and development center in Brecksville, Ohio. Other starts expected to break ground in 2022 include the $20 billion Intel semiconductor chip factory in Jersey Township, Ohio and the $2.5 billion General Motors electric vehicle battery plant in Lansing, Michigan. 

Hospitality

Dodge forecasts hospitality starts in 2022 to jump 81% to $1.45 billion, but Reaves warns growth in the sector is not as positive as that percentage suggests, because the region is coming off a 2021 low of $802 million starts. 

The largest project included in the projected start numbers is the $500 million Tribune East Tower in Chicago, and that project will likely be delayed, said Reaves. That will lower overall expectations for the region’s hospitality sector, he added.

Midwest region leaders and laggards

Ohio led the Midwest region in 2021 with $22.55 billion in construction starts, a 7% increase from a year ago. 

But for the first four months of 2022, nonresidential construction activity in the Columbus, Ohio area dropped 66%, while nonbuilding activity dropped 6%.

Illinois ranked second in the Midwest region with $19.53 billion in construction starts, a 5% decrease from a year ago.

For the first four months of 2022, nonresidential construction in the Chicago area dropped 12%, while nonbuilding construction gained 1%, according to Dodge.

South Dakota posted the largest drop in construction starts in the Midwest region in 2021, falling 10% from 2020. 

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