Forget the big markets like Las Vegas and think more along the lines of Lake Charles, Beaumont-Port Arthur and North Carolina. Businessweek recently listed Lake Charles as No. 1 on a Top 20 list of the nation’s strongest building markets.

The Beaumont-Port Arthur market was listed as No. 2. Building permit figures there were affected by Ike, with only a hand full of homes in Bridge City not flooded by Ike’s storm surge. Orange’s “The Cove” area along the Sabine River also took severe damage, as well as large sections of Orange and West Orange.

Real estate writer Prashant Gopal reported results of a survey by magazine researchers and Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Hanley Wood Market Intelligence.

The article cited “military, government and energy jobs” as well as natural disasters including hurricanes Rita and Ike as demands for new construction. It might be considered somewhat ironic that the hurricanes would put Lake Charles out front, since Rita and Ike were all but ignored by national media which chose to focus on other storms such as Katrina and Gustav. At least one-third of downtown Lake Charles flooded from Ike’s waters, according to the National Hurricane Center.

According to the story, results were based on the change in building permits in the first six months of 2009 compared with the same period a year earlier. The list was limited to metros with at least 500 permits during the six-month period, and all permits were included, such as those for single-family homes and apartment complexes. The permit data were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Many of the areas had a surge in apartment construction to accommodate younger populations and workers looking for temporary homes,” the article states. “In Lake Charles, building permits rose 122 percent during the first six months of the year. Construction now plays a major role in the local economy as the metro rebuilds after Hurricane Ike last year and Hurricane Rita in 2005. But the economy also has gotten a boost from the petrochemical industry as well as large projects such as the new nuclear power fabrication facility now under construction.”

Building permits issued in the first six months of this year increased from the same period last year in 10 metropolitan areas, including Lake Charles; Beaumont, Salt Lake City; Huntsville, Ala.; and Little Rock, Ark., the article reports. “Permits for the nation as a whole, by comparison, plunged 32 percent in August from the year before, according to a U.S. Commerce Department report released Sept. 17.”

The number of building permits for apartments in Lake Charles rose to 870 percent in the first six months of this year, compared to the same time last year, according to Gopal’s report. The southeast Texas market’s permit numbers were up 65.8 percent – bolstered in addition to Ike’s devastation by a $7 billion Motiva refinery expansion in Port Arthur.

Ranked No. 3 was Salt Lake City, with permits up 36.6 percent, at No. 4, Huntsville, Ala., up 30 percent; at No. 5 Jacksonville, N.C., (permits up 28.6 percent); and at No. 6, Augusta-Richmond County, Ga., S.C, up 21.6 percent.

To read the full story and list, go to, or more simply – go to and search for “businessweek, lake charles, beaumont” and click on the first link displayed.

The list is rounded out with (starting with No. 7 and continuing in numerical order): Fayetteville, N.C.; Las Cruces, N.M.; Auburn-Opelika, Ala.; Little Rock, North Little Rock, Ark.; Clarksville, Tenn., Ky.; Durham, N.C.; Mobile, Ala.; Wichita, Kan.; Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, N.C.; Provo, Orem, Utah; The Villages, Fla.; Olympia, Wash.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio.