Ride out the storm

John Hunzinger

Hunzinger Construction Company
21100 Enterprise Ave., Brookfield
Industry: Building and construction
Employees: 150

The Great Recession posed challenges for all industries, but the construction industry has been one of the hardest hit. Brookfield-based Hunzinger Construction Co. has been in business for more than 100 years and has constructed some of the Milwaukee area’s most prominent buildings. President John Hunzinger reflects on how the industry and his firm are working through the severe economic downturn.

“Having been in the construction business for nearly 30 years, I thought I had seen it all. The back-to-back recessions of 1981 and 1982 posed the greatest challenge to our 100-plus-year-old company since The Great Depression of 1929.

“This recession, widely referred to as ‘The Great Recession,’ began in December of 2007 and probably, technically at least, ended in July of 2009, making this the longest lasting post-war recession. It may not feel like we are in a recovery now, but we are. Try telling that to the millions still unemployed.

“Nationwide, construction unemployment has been hovering at more than 25 percent. That’s two and a half times the national unemployment rate, which has been over 9 percent for more than a year. As an industry, job losses in construction account for nearly one quarter of all jobs lost in the U.S. in the past year, a record for our industry.

“The recovery may be just now getting underway for builders. The construction industry, even more so than many other industries, has experienced a ‘human recession.’ Many workers, white and blue collar, will be permanently displaced from the industry and working in different sectors once the construction rebound gets into full swing, according to Fails Management Institute. An already reduced construction market capacity due to downsizing, wind-downs and business failures could be exacerbated by a shortage of an experienced construction workforce.

“The strong, well-managed firms in our industry will ride this storm out, just as we have in the past. Small business creates 80 percent of the jobs in the U.S. It will be up to small business to lead our country out of the Great Recession and put an end to the human recession that has hurt so many people.”

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