TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Practically anyone who is willing to work and can pass a drug test can get a job with Mike McCombs. The owner of an electrical contracting company just outside Pensacola can’t find enough employees for all the work he has lined up.

McCombs has been busy restoring the electrical systems of thousands of homes hit by Hurricane Ivan.

“It’s unreal the amount of work here,” McCombs said. “Anybody that wants to work, there’s absolutely no reason for them not to around here.”

The four hurricanes that hit Florida over the summer have created a statewide economic boomlet.

By some estimates, $20 billion to $25 billion will be spent on the reconstruction in Florida.

Building was robust in Florida even before the storms hit, but now the demand for construction workers, equipment and supplies is even stronger.

“It will provide a substantive boost to the state’s economy,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Economy.com, which does industry research. “All that insurance money is pouring in. The rebuilding is juicing up the economy.”

And state economists Friday are expected to report that the additional hiring and the spending on construction materials will mean many millions of dollars more in tax revenue coming into Florida’s treasury.

McCombs’ contracting business, for example, has hired two new crews of workers and had to buy several trucks to get them to their worksites. Those workers, of course, now have more money to spend, and the economic chain reaction is on.

The hurricane boost is even getting credit for helping jump-start the national economy. When Washington touted last month’s huge hiring surge nationally, several economists pointed out that it would not have been anywhere near as big if not for construction employment growing by more than 70,000 jobs – fueled by Florida.

The rebuilding will probably amount to a modest increase of a percentage point or two in Florida’s total output of goods and services, said Richard Branch, an economist at McGraw Hill Construction, which tracks building.

But Branch said it is not clear whether the boomlet will be enough to offset the damage done to Florida’s economy when the hurricanes wiped out jobs and businesses.

One person who is skeptical about the potential benefits of the storms is Gov. Jeb Bush.

The governor said the hurricanes could ultimately prove a drag on Florida’s economy because of the high insurance deductibles many hurricane victims will pay. Some estimates put the out-of-pocket costs at more than $1 billion statewide.

“I do not believe … that having four hurricanes is good economically for the state,” Bush said. “It’s impossible for me to imagine that that’s a good idea.”



On the Net:

Legislative office of Economic and Demographic Research: http://www.state.fl.us/edr/

AP-ES-11-11-04 1236EST



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