The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 03, 2011

Contractors still struggling, await industry turnaround

By The Building Tradesman

The nation’s construction contractors are looking for some momentum on the way out of the nastiest recession since the Great Depression. In Michigan and most other places, that momentum has been hard to find.

Every year in May, the Engineering News Record publishes a snapshot of the nation’s top 400 construction contractors in terms of revenue, and how they’re faring compared to the year before. It’s safe to say that overall, the contractors haven’t been the picture of good health.

“The current construction recession is now in its fourth year, and industry executives are hoping to see signs that the economy is about to turn around,” ENR said. “For some on the leading edge of the construction process, such as large design firms, the recession appears to be bottoming out. However, for the nation’s largest general contractors, recovery seems more hope than reality at this point.”

The ENR said as a group, the Top 400 contractors generated $259.41 billion in contracting revenue in 2010, down 10.8 percent from 2009 and well below the record high of $338.38 billion in revenue in 2008.

Contractors are getting used to a status of “low normal,” where revenue growth created by new projects is scarce.

In Michigan, Barton Malow of Southfield retained its long-held position as the state’s largest general contractor, showing up at No. 38 on the ENR list, the same spot as last year. And Detroit-based Walbridge moved up three spots from last year, to No. 47.

Lakeshore Toltest of Detroit, a newly created firm made possible by a merger between Lakeshore Engineering of Detroit and Toltest of Maumee Ohio, came in at #71. The Christman Co. of Lansing appeared on the list at #163, improving nine spots from 2010.

Other Michigan-based contractors on the list (and their position on the list compared to 2010) include: Commercial Contracting Group, Aurburn Hills (#234, +135); Aristeo Construction Co., Livonia (#253, not listed in 2010); Clark Construction, Lansing (#266, +47); Ingenium International Inc., Detroit , (#271, unlisted in 2010); Rockford Construction Co., Grand Rapids, #287, -9); Roncelli Inc., Sterling Heights (#292, +75); Granger Construction Co., Lansing, (#304, -27); Triangle Associates, (#353, unlisted in 2010); Wolverine Building Group, Inc. Grand Rapids (#364, -33) and Pioneer General Contractors, Grand Rapids (#391, -21).

The top five contractors in the nation included: Bechtel of San Francisco; Fluor of Irving Texas; Kiewit Corp. of Omaha, Nebraska; KBR of Houston and The Turner Corp. of New York.