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Contractor permits double across ND

More than double the amount of new contractor's licenses have been issued by the state of North Dakota in the first half of this year than were in the first half of 2011, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said.

As of Wednesday, there were 1,801 new licenses issued to contractors in North Dakota, he said. At about the same time in 2011, the state had issued 917. This does not include renewals.

The state has seen an increase in renewals, upping the total number of contractors, Jaeger said.

On June 20, 2011, there were 7,529 active licensed contractors in North Dakota, one year later the state had 10,646, an increase of 41 percent, he said.

The building boom the state is experiencing has brought a lot of out-of-state interest in the construction business in North Dakota, said Doreen Riedman, Bismarck based-North Dakota Association of Builders executive officer.

"We have had phone calls from as far away as Maine, Florida, California," she said. "I'm tempted to say almost every state in the union we've got a phone call from in the course of the last year in terms of wanting to know what's going on here and how they can work with others."

But a larger variety of contractors can widens the net for a chance of fraud, Riedman said.

"Don't just go for the fast timeline or the cheapest project," she said. "That's not always the best bet."

Jaeger suspects that many of the companies are coming in from out of state, but there is no way to know because many companies register with the Secretary of State's office as an in-state company.

"Just based on their address alone isn't necessarily an indicator as to where they're doing their business," he said.

Companies coming in wishing to stay out-of-state need to file papers from their home state with his office, Jaeger said. With budget cuts in many states, these papers can be difficult to obtain, he added.

Growth in the Oil Patch, as well as reconstruction in Minot after last year's flood and constant growth on the east side of the state can be credited for the increase, Jaeger said.

"We are set up to have a definite record year in 2012 across the state of North Dakota in terms of housing," Riedman said. "That is for sure."

Permits and permit values are up along with the number, she said.

"We're seeing a really good year all across North Dakota," Riedman said. "Bismarck is doing very well, also, as is Minot."

Since May, growth throughout the state can take most of the credit, but a rough winter followed by a wet spring did cause a building delay for much of the state in 2011, she said.

The North Dakota Association of Builders tracks permit data from 11 cities and jurisdictions.

"What happens out in rural North Dakota is another situation," Riedman said. "If somebody's putting up a house in the middle of Dunn County, we definitely don't know about it. This is just what we know of."

Of the areas tracked, for the first five months of 2012, North Dakota saw 1,932 permits valued at more than $530 million issued, according to data provided by the North Dakota Association of Builders. In that same time frame in 2011 there were 846 permits valued at more than $247 million.

There were 286 permits issued in Dickinson from the beginning of the year to May valued at more than $100 million, according the North Dakota Association of Builders. That same time last year saw 47 permits valued at more than $26 million.

The permits issued in Dickinson this year through May include 282 single-family homes, 33 multi-family buildings and 21 commercial structures, according to the North Dakota Association of Builders.

Much of the single-family construction in Dickinson consists of spec homes, Home and Land Co. broker Shirley Dukart said. These houses are built before the buyer purchases the unit, but some details, like carpets and kitchen cabinets, are left for the buyer to decide.

"In the past our local builders would meet with the buyer and have them designed the way you want them," she said. "Some of these builder that came in, because they want to put them up right away ... they come in with their own plans and they just want to build."

This style of building is more affordable for consumers than a custom creation, Dukart said.

The North Dakota Association of Builders encourages potential homebuyers to do their homework regarding contractors, Riedman said.

"We strongly encourage people to work with somebody that they know and to check references on and ensure that everyone is registered as a licensed contractor in the state and have all their liability insurance and all of that," she said.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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