The Omaha area stands out as the nation's fastest-growing market for construction jobs, according to a new analysis by the Associated General Contractors of America that tracked 358 metro areas.
About 5,900 new construction jobs came on board locally between October 2018 and October 2019 — that's a 20% increase, the largest percentage gain among the metro areas reviewed, said Brian Turmail, national spokesman for the contractors group.
Today there are 35,500 workers in Omaha's construction market, the contractors group reported, up from a post-recession low of 21,000 in October 2011.
A related survey also discussed Friday found that 90 percent of Nebraska contractors, compared with 80 percent of contractors nationwide, reported a hard time finding qualified workers.
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
Many construction workers are retiring, Turmail said, and too few young adults are entering the field.
He and others, including members of the group's Nebraska chapter, visited the Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha campus Friday to highlight ways to turn around the shortage. The community college opened its Construction Education Center about two years ago.
"We see the demand every day," said Nate Barry, Metro's dean of career and technical education. He said Omaha's top rank among fast-growing construction job cities reinforces the college's commitment to prepare the region's workforce for the high-demand career.
The national contractors group outlined other steps federal officials should take to build momentum. The plan includes a push to help construction students qualify for federal Pell Grants and for a doubling of federal funding for technical education programs over the next five years.
1 of 16
Tony Amato, Ann Amato and Sam Amato pictured at Amato's in 2015. After more than 45 years as a staple of central Omaha dining, Amato's Cafe & Catering closed in June of this year. The restaurant was well known for its oversized pancakes, its homemade Italian sausage, and a devoted neighborhood crowd.
Blue Blood Brewery in Lincoln abruptly closed its doors in May following a lawsuit brought by the property ownership group saying that the brewery and its owner, Brian Podwinski, owed unpaid rent. The brewery sat atop popular landmark Robber's Cave, whose owners have since reopened for public tours.
Buck's, the oldest shoe store in Nebraska and a pillar of Fremont's Main Street, sold its final pair of shoes near the end of April, closing three years shy of its 100th anniversary. Founder Earl Buck started the store in 1922 and grew it from a single Omaha store to one with more than 30 locations across Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas.
Kirk Brown, owner of Buck's Shoes since 1986, with customer Don Havekost. If you remove the time he spent at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kirk has worked in Buck's pretty much every day of his life since he sold his first pair of shoes at age 13.
B&G Tasty Foods, known for its loose-meat sandwich, announced its closure this past April and closed on May 27, after being an Omaha staple for 66 years.
In 2017, Bass Pro Shops bought Cabela's, a Sidney-based retailer founded in 1961. After consolidating operations at its headquarters in Missouri, Bass Pro then closed the former distribution center in Sidney and merchandise return center in Oshkosh in March of this year. Now all that's left of the Cabela's operations in Sidney is a retail store and a limited corporate presence.
In the wake of the sale, former Cabela's staffers have started two different outdoors businesses in Sidney, Highby Outdoors and NexGen Outfitters. Toronto-based company MMP Enterprises has announced that it would locate 155 new jobs in Sidney at the former Cabela's building, according to the local economic development partnership.
After an attempted sale, Ascena Retail Group Inc. announced in May it would be closing the Dressbarn clothing chain, including locations in Omaha, Council Bluffs, Papillion, Lincoln, Grand Island and an outlet at Nebraska Crossing.
After countless birthday parties, mini-golf games and tickets exchanged for prizes, Family Fun Center closed in March of this year, selling off its remaining arcade games and inventory in a recent auction.
GERDA'S GERMAN RESTAURANT
Gerda's German Restaurant and Bakery, a mainstay at 52nd and Leavenworth, closed its doors in June of this year and will host its last Oktoberfest this month.
GERDA'S GERMAN RESTAURANT
The closing announcement came a year after the death of Gerda Bailey, the namesake and longtime owner of the business.
Shoes on display at the Grand Island Conestoga Mall Payless store in 2012. Payless ShoeSource filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February of this year and began closing its remaining stores in North America, including three stores in Omaha, one in Bellevue and two in Lincoln.
Since declaring bankruptcy in January of this year, Shopko has closed more than 20 stores in Nebraska and Iowa, including this location in Council Bluffs.
Werner Trucks at the Pamida-Shopko facility at 10808 S. 132nd St. in 2011. Shopko effectively closed the distribution center in April of this year.
Longtime Omaha roller skating rink SkateDaze announced it would close in February of this year and held its final skate at the end of March.
Josten Estremera, left, and Riley Van Ginkel at work behind the skate rental counter during the final Adult Request Skate. According to a statement announcing the closure, owners Scott and Pam Cernik "are ready to hang up their skates and pursue other passions."