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Building picks up in the Flathead, but Bakken boom still a big draw

Oil pump.
Dan Boyce

Businesses are hiring and construction across the greater Flathead has been picking up, but many are still heading east and sending money home. Kramer Enterprises Incorporated of Evergreen, east of Kalispell is one of those companies. President and CEO Terry Kramer said his company handles commercial and heavy industrial projects mainly, as well as large residential or multi-use projects.

Kramer said they do have some projects in the Flathead; a million dollar restaurant, and a $100,000 office remodel. But, compare that to a multi-year commercial project in North Dakota that will tally more than $20-million-dollars.

“We actually, kind of would like to not have to work over there. But it’s almost too hard to turn down,” Kramer said.

Kramer said he has about 10-employees including office staff.

“Just in the last 2 weeks- 3 weeks, we hired 4 new employees, and most of that was field employees,” field employees include carpenters and Project Superintendents who oversee on-site work and sub-contractors.

Prior to the recession Kramer’s company worked along the western corridor; from the Flathead south to Hamilton. He said his company’s lowest volume was in 2012. By 2013 he said things turned around, but that was because nearly 3-quarters of the work they were doing was out of his North Dakota office.

“In the construction industry, we all expect it to be cyclical. It’s just the downturn was a little bit worse than what I think a lot of people expected. I mean, we always tell our employees, our carpenters and that; ‘I mean, you’re going to North Dakota, making a lot of money over there. Put it away. We don’t know what next spring is going to bring, we don’t know what this winter’s going to bring.”

Kramer said ultimately, they’d like to be back working the western corridor. He said it would take 2-years of steady work in the west for that shift back home to happen.

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