FILE - Maine road construction

Vehicles pass a construction sign warning of delays on a road under construction in Brunswick, Maine, in this AP file photo.

(The Center Square) – Despite the unprecedented economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Maine’s construction industry has continued with little disruption as demand has not waned for work on long-delayed projects.

With fewer cars on the road and fewer students in classrooms, it has given local contractors a chance to tackle highway and school repair jobs, Matt Marks, CEO of Associated General Contractors of Maine, told The Center Square.

“Maine’s construction industry amid the pandemic has been one of the bright spots,” Marks said. “The Department of Homeland Security early on determined construction was an essential industry.”

While Maine’s construction sector lost about 1,200 jobs at the outset of the pandemic, those numbers have improved and it is now up about 700 year-to-year, Marks said.

“We are concerned about late 2021 and 2022. Maine people know the infrastructure backlog is big. Roads and schools need TLC. We want Maine to use this as an opportunity to get through the pandemic and the next few years,” Marks said.

Public projects can help make up for stalled work in the private sector, Marks said.

“We are still trying to figure that out,” he said. “The state budget is going to have cuts, and we are hoping they look at appropriations to keep Mainers working. We are hoping on the private side there are some growth markets that make up for some shortfalls in hospitality.”

Residential construction demand, which was already on the rise, has not slowed down, Marks said.

The net effect is a strong outlook for construction jobs, Marks said, adding that he has received inquiries from workers in California who want to know about job prospects in Maine.

“I never got those calls before,” Marks said. “They have a list of things making it difficult to live there, and we’re lucky to have great companies here, and they can raise a family here.”

Construction is getting more attention from students in Maine as well.

“We hope that parents and students can see construction is a growth market,” Marks said. “If someone wants experience in a field that’s growing, now would be the time to do it.”