There's a bit of a construction boom in Albany and Dougherty County right now, especially commercial building construction.
Experts say that's a sign that businesses think South Georgia's economy is improving, and they're ready to expand and hire.
In the first six months of 2012 there were $30 million permitted in commercial construction in Albany. This year it's well over $41 million, and city planners say much more construction is ready to begin.
The new Gander Mountain and Ulta Beauty Store by the Mall is one of the bigger construction sites in Albany right now. City Planners, who give the permits for new building, say commercial construction is skyrocketing.
Development Services Senior Manager Tracy Hester said "The numbers of permits are up. And certainly the values of these projects and the number of square feet being built is considerably up."
Right now 17 new businesses are building new stores in Albany. Like Kauffman Tire, which is putting up a new shop off North Slappey Boulevard at Pine Avenue. Businesses investing big money is a sign they believe the South Georgia economy is improving.
Albany Dougherty Economic Development Commission President Ted Clem said "Usually retail is the last to rebound when an economy recovers. I think the new construction and new investment in the retail sector is a sign that Albany, the worst is past, and good things are ahead."
And city development services have already permitted more businesses ready to begin construction soon, like Hardee's opening a new store at the old Pritchett Ford site on North Slappey. They say more are coming.
Hester said "Yes sir. I like to tell people I judge how Albany and Dougherty County is doing by the way the phone is ringing. And it is certainly ringing regularly lately."
Of course new business growth normally means competition and further growth by more business interests. Clem said "We're optimistic there will be even more to come."
And hopefully those signs that the economy is improving means jobs, better pay, economic growth, and opportunity after years of a shrinking or stagnant economy.
Economic development leaders say most of these businesses are rushing to get their new stores open in time for the Christmas shopping season, another sign they believe South Georgians will be spending more money, and driving economic improvement.
Planners say construction of single family homes increased slightly from 21 to 25 permits in the first half of the year over the same period last year.