The bleak news of 2009 has been replaced by a sunnier outlook this construction season for Wichita's architects and commercial contractors.
The Wichita school bond will dump as much as $150 million into the local economy this year, according to a USD 259 official. Another $100 million will hit the market next year.
Plus, there is bond construction under way in some neighboring districts, including Goddard.
That money will replace the money that disappeared because of shopping centers, churches and apartment complexes that won't be built.
It also means the owner of a $150,000 home in the Wichita district is paying almost $64 more per year in taxes.
The first sizable Wichita school bond projects were approved late last year, and many more will start construction this year and next. It couldn't have come at a better time for the city's construction industry.
As the economy and credit availability plunged in 2009, non-residential building permits in Wichita dropped by more than half from the year before.
"I shudder to think where we'd be without it," said Beverly Sauerwein, vice president of Sauerwein Construction, which is building an addition to Clark Elementary.
"It's a lifeboat."
She estimated that the company's revenues fell by half or more from 2008 to 2009.
She said it's a win for taxpayers who want value for their money. Bidding for the projects has been intense.
Forty-two general contractors, 37 from Sedgwick County, got approval to bid. Scores more of electrical, mechanical and other subcontractors also received approval.
Every bond project bid so far has come in under budget, said Julie Hedrick, director of design and construction for USD 259. Projects came in from 2 percent to 18 percent below estimates.
"The schools are getting a great deal," Sauerwein said.
Her company was low bid on one school project, but the bidding is so tight that when the bids on optional extras were added, it was a few hundred dollars above the low bid.
"It's a million-dollar project, and we missed by a few hundred dollars," she said.
She said that many of the companies aren't making much in the way of profit, but the cost-cutting is being shared by the subcontractors.
One of those subcontractors, Kruse Corp., a heating, air-conditioning and plumbing contractor, is about to start work on the new Eisenhower High School in Goddard. The company has bid on the Wichita bond work but has not won any contracts yet.
Work is pretty slow on traditional commercial projects, said company president Kent Kruse. He laid off 10 workers late last year but said that he will put more back on when he starts work on the high school.
Without the school work, the company would have a much rougher time of it, he said.
"I don't like to think about it," he said. "We got a great bunch of guys and they would have found something for us to do. But this is big."