MORRIS – A slight increase in building permits points to more construction activity within Grundy County – what local officials say is a healthy indicator for the area’s economy.
Grundy County residents applied for more industrial, commercial and improvement permits last year and the beginning of this year compared to previous years, according to Grundy County Administrator and former Land Use Director Heidi Miller.
In 2013, the Grundy County Land Use Department processed eight industrial permits, 10 commercial permits and nine residential permits. Additionally, the county had more than 100 improvement permits, which are required when local business or residential owners upgrade their property in some way.
“Those numbers are actually pretty good considering that some other communities are struggling to have any [permits] at all,” Miller said.
“It’s a sign that the economy is getting better,” she continued.
Miller said the amount of homeowners making improvements to existing property is steadily increasing each year. However, the number of people building new homes is not growing.
“Single family homes – we haven’t seen much of an upswing with that. It’s been pretty consistent over the years,” Miller said. “But there has been an increase in industrial permits, which has been steady.”
The increased amount of industrial and commercial permits issued means substantial development countywide – good news for local construction workers, Miller said.
Morris Building and Zoning Officer Bill Cheshareck said locally, the city is working to develop new commercial enterprises, like the Goodwill resale store and Pilot gas station, which account for some of the added commercial permits his office is processing.
Like the county, Morris has not seen much change in the amount of residential properties being built, Cheshareck said
“We’re seeing just a little bit of trickle in the residential area,” Cheshareck said. “We’ve got a couple developers who have bought some lots and they’re looking to build a few [speculative homes.]”
But the city has issued several improvement permits, he said, as a handful of local businesses are expanding or renovating their existing establishment.
“Even when things were a little slower with new residential properties, we were seeing things like a room additions or doing a remodeling project,” he said.
In the early 2000s – long before the economic recession hit in 2008 – Miller said the county was processing somewhere near 60 single-family home permits per year.
“It’s been a drastic drop, but things are slowly getting better,” Miller said.
In recent months, signs have indicated a stronger local economy with Grundy County property values holding steady and the local unemployment rate dropping slowly.