Representatives of hundreds of construction companies from across the country turned out in Cedar Rapids Thursday as the city starts putting $200-million worth of flood recovery projects up for bid. City spokesperson, Cassie Willis says they were surprised as they expected about 50 people to show up and had 200 or more.

Not everyone’s surprised though, Craig Breitbach of Cedar Valley Steel says competition for work is the toughest it’s ever been. “There’s no work anywhere else, except for the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor. We would hope it impacts us well, being as we’re a local contractor. But they’re bringing in subs and vendors from all over the United States…which is hurting us somewhat. Our margins of profit have come down a lot,” Breitbach says.

Bob Walwrath says the potential work made his trek from South Dakota worthwhile. “I mean we make concrete products, so hauling concrete’s kind of tough, you know, trucking it. But with the economy the way it is, and the list of project they’re going to talk about today, it’s kind of exciting to hear about the development that’s going to happen down here, so,” Walwrath said.

Willis of the city manager’s office says they will give extra consideration to local companies — but only up to a certain point. “It’s taxpayer’s dollars. And they should get the best price available. So we want them to compete with everybody from the other parts of the region as well,” Willis says, “because we want to build great buildings for the least amount of money we possibly can.”

The city building projects slated to begin in the next two years include the public library, city hall renovation and the restoration of the Paramount Theater.