Cold Snap Puts Chill on Local Economy

Updated: 01/29/2014 7:42 AM By: Todd Wilson

The extreme cold may have knocked a $1 million dent in our local economy.

Jessie Houlihan Bingen of Stahl Construction gave KSTP a tour of a school her company is building in Maple Grove.

Work began in August and moved along without a hitch in the fall. Then December hit with a cold snap. Now, in January, we're experiencing another winter blast.

Schedules and expectations had to be adjusted. "According to our schedule we'd be pouring concrete slab right now, but concrete can't be worked with when it's this cold," Houlihan Bingen said.

Five heaters are being used to thaw the ground inside to lay concrete. "Our budget line items for heat temporary electric, all of that we are spending more than we expected too," she said.

Another concern is work done in the freezing temperatures. Stahl, Ryan Companies and Mortenson Construction all tell KSTP they provide heated trailers to help employees stay warm. They also have the option of not working, but in the construction industry, if you're not working, you're not getting paid.

The eatery business is is also taking a hit because of the cold. At Keys Restaurant things have been slow. Barb Stennett says sales are down 25 percent. "We've been cutting back a lot on hours. We have to do that to keep us afloat," she said.  

Professor David Vang of the University of St. Thomas says all of this short-term loss of productivity, spending and higher heating bills without a doubt has hurt the economy.

"Dollar estimates, I've seen some studies that suggest that every 10 degrees below average a day might have an impact of like half a percent on GDP for that day," he said. 

Vang says typically when it's this cold, people put their spending on hold. Vang believes the economy will make that money back in the spring.