Area construction leaders foresee a busy 2023

Shortage of skilled workers still a concern

Area construction leaders foresee a busy 2023

Shortage of skilled workers still a concern

Despite hints of an impending recession, record high interest rates and inflation, and continuing labor and supply challenges, the mood from Rochester’s leaders in the construction industry entering 2023 is very optimistic and their projected activity is busy, busy, busy.


“When you’re a builder you have to be optimistic,” said Karl Schuler, president of East Rochester-based Taylor, The Builders, a second-generation general contractor with over 35 years of experience in the design and construction of commercial, industrial, multifamily, and institutional buildings throughout New York State and across the country. “There are still a lot of projects in the pipeline, businesses — especially industrial — are growing, and multi-family residential housing is still very much needed.”

Taylor, The Builders has “a lot going on” in 2023 — everything from building apartments in Penfield to the continued renovation of the historic Gannett building at 55 Exchange Street in Rochester.

LeChase Construction Services, a Rochester-based full-service construction management and general construction firm established in 1944 and that has offices across the East Coast and down to the Carolinas, also looks forward to “an awful lot going on” in 2023, according to Lee Sommerman, a senior vice president who manages LeChase’s Rochester and Central New York offices, and also assists in other initiatives.

“We expect a continuation of a pretty busy pace,” Sommerman said. “There’s a lot of work in a number of different market sectors, including healthcare, manufacturing, and higher education.”

Among the projects LeChase will be working on in 2023 are several at area colleges and universities and the continued 90,000-square-foot expansion of the Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, which is slated to wrap during the year. After the expansion opens, the museum projects its annual attendance will grow from nearly 600,000 visitors a year to one million.


LeChase is construction manager-at-risk for the Strong Museum expansion, which Sommerman describes as “transformational for the community.” The firm completed the expansion’s first phase – a new parking garage with a unique and colorful façade – in 2020. Phase two includes a new museum wing, an outdoor play exhibit, a gateway building connecting the parking garage and museum, and an outdoor plaza area.

In the year ahead LeChase will also finish the tower project at Highland Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Rochester Medical Center, located on South Ave. in the city.

The vertical expansion and modernization project will add four floors — three for patient rooms and one for clinical programs, plus a mechanical penthouse to the hospital — without expanding its footprint.

The mood at the Pike Company, a fifth-generation construction company founded in Rochester in 1873, is also optimistic for 2023. Pike specializes in construction management, design-build, facility, and general construction both locally and nationally.

“Locally in 2022 we saw a lot of work and a lot of contractors are very busy,” said Ed Kurowski, Pike’s executive vice president. “A lot of work has been pushed into 2023 and I think it will be a good year for contractors.” Kurowski believes contractors who have experience working in a wide range of sectors will fare particularly well, even if the country does enter a recession.

At Pike, some of the projects slated to start in 2023 are the new field house at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of Rochester’s new 9-story inpatient bed tower that’s a joint venture with Turner Construction and scheduled for completion in 2027. Pike is also wrapping up a large warehouse facility at Kodak Park for Li-Cycle Corp., a Canadian lithium-ion battery resource recovery company and the leading lithium-ion battery recycler in North America.

Challenges do remain, though, for the construction industry heading into 2023, with one of the biggest issues being the labor shortage. In August 2022 the Bureau of Labor Statistics data from Associated Builders and Contractors showed 375,000 unfilled construction positions in the United States, which was an 11.3% increase from August 2021.

“The biggest challenge in the industry is labor on all levels,” Schuler said. “From the person laboring on a job site to the professionals making six digits. We’re in a constant hiring mode right now.”

One of the ways Taylor, The Builders works to recruit new team members is by offering a paid co-op/intern program for students working towards a Bachelor of Science in construction management, engineering, or architecture. “The construction industry is a great career,” Schuler said. “You can make a great living and it’s very rewarding work.”


Kurowski also points to the difficulty of finding and retaining skilled laborers as a major challenge for the industry in the year ahead. In Rochester, there will be the added challenge of keeping laborers here when other large, planned projects in Western New York commence, like the Buffalo Bills’ new stadium in Orchard Park and Micron Technology Inc.’s massive new $100 billion semiconductor plant in Clay, Onondaga County.

Pike also has a strong internship program that attracts about 20 students a year — 80% of whom go on to become permanent hires when they complete the program, Kurowski said.

Pike, LeChase, and several other local construction firms also participate in the ACE Mentor Program, a nationwide program that introduces high schoolers to career opportunities in architecture, construction, engineering, and related areas of the building design and construction industry.

In Rochester, some of the many activities planned in 2023 for ACE participants are a field trip to C.P. Ward with Pike, a working class for house design with LaBella Associates, a class on presentation skills at Builders Exchange, a meeting about structural engineering and the importance of code requirements at Bergmann, a metal stud framing competition at the Carpenters Union Hall Training Facility and a resume writing workshop at LeChase.

“Because, as an industry, we see the biggest challenge in the future being workforce development we continue to make investments in getting people excited about the construction industry,” Sommerman said.

For more information on the ACE Mentor Program visit /rochester-ny/

Caurie Putnam is a Rochester-area freelance writer.