Construction Workers Flee To Florida

Hurricane Ivan may have missed the Mississippi Gulf Coast, but the storm's impact is hitting the building trades industry pretty hard. Many coast construction workers are flocking to Florida to help that state rebuild.

And that's creating some headaches for the building trades here.

Workers are busy building a new commercial complex off Pass Road.  But many coast contractors are finding it tough to keep a full crew with all the hurricane work in Florida.

John Ruble is president of the Gulf Coast Home Builders Association.

"As Ivan struck Florida, it withdrew all the talent for demolition, for framing, for quality type flooring etc. They've all abandoned the Mississippi Gulf Coast and gone to Florida for the quick buck," he said.

The lure of abundant business made Damon Mumaw think about joining the exodus to the sunshine state. He decided it wasn't worth temporarily relocating. But he did consider Florida.

"I'm sure the work would be pretty abundant, but like I said, there was so many people that went over there. It's just kind of ridiculous to try and fight for all that work," he reasoned.

Many workers did decide to join the hurricane work crews. That left some companies here... scrambling for help.

"Within five days of that storm hitting, we began to lose people. They started heading over there to pull up carpet out of houses where the carpet was wet and soaked and beginning to smell. We probably lost 12 to 15 employees," said flooring installer, John Kotsakos.

A shortage of construction workers may be the most immediate concern for the building industry here. But Ivan's impact is expected to create other headaches as well.

"Our lumber costs are fixing to escalate, as well as our labor costs are going to escalate, strictly due to Ivan going within 100 miles of us," said Ruble.

Building trade leaders say it's simple economics: Supply and demand. They expect many of the workers now in Florida will eventually return to the steady work here in Mississippi.