The Utah nonresidential construction market is approaching near record levels, with almost $2 billion in activity expected by the end of 2007.

The highest levels were in 1997, when downtown Salt Lake City saw the construction of the Grand America Hotel and the LDS Conference Center.

The figures are detailed in the September issue of "Utah's Economy" produced by the University of Utah's Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR) for Salt Lake-based commercial real estate firm Commerce CRG.

"Nonresidential construction usually lags behind residential construction by a year or two, and that's exactly what's happening here," said Jim Wood, BEBR director. "We've got a real boom in nonresidential construction. It could peak next year and with what the (LDS) Church is doing, it could go on even longer than that."

Wood said construction in new industrial buildings paced ahead of the nonresidential sector by $143 million from August 2006 through August 2007, with office construction up $121 million over 2006, though retail construction was down slightly.

"Nonresidential construction is really driven by employment growth and population growth," Wood said. "But it lags a little bit because the investment is so big."

He said the state's strong economy has become a magnet for attracting more and more companies to Utah or having already established firms expand their operations, which all require more development of nonresidential properties.

In Salt Lake County, the value of nonresidential construction increased 46.4 percent so far this year, according to the report.

In what some might consider a bit of a surprise, the area now experiencing the greatest percentage of growth in nonresidential construction is Box Elder County at nearly 400 percent, bolstered by the development of a new IHC hospital near Tremonton and the recent announcement that Procter & Gamble will break ground early next year on a new paper products manufacturing plant.

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