First Word: Strength in 2006

The news of the day generally reflects the very best and worst in our society. Depending on which part we choose to dwell on, we can become part of the problem or an ingredient of the solution. Where do you stand in the war in Iraq? Will inflation ultimately pop the growing economic bubble? Does the federal government pay to rebuild New Orleans or do we wait to see if anyone returns to live there?

These are all fairly large issues, especially when some news sources do not provide all the information needed to form an accurate opinion. In the construction industry, however, the news has been quite positive. Manufacturers of construction equipment report sales were up almost 14 percent in 2005, with another year of near-double-digit growth expected in 2006. Congress recently voted to fund a new six-year highway bill for $286 billion – which will go toward building and rebuilding the country’s highway and transit systems – another key indicator of positive growth for our industry. On the down side, material shortages will continue to thwart the supply of equipment needed on jobsites nationwide.

The highway bill and, on a larger scale, housing starts are good economic indicators for most contractors, but may or may not affect how they do business each day. For those folks, niche construction remains their bread and butter, providing jobs that keep their busineses running. The necessity to build and refurbish healthcare facilities in areas like Florida, where the median age of the population grows older each year, provides steady business for contractors of all sizes and should continue to do so for years to come.

Church construction is also an area that has seen growth in recent years as the demand to provide more seating capacity has been driven by an upward trend in nondenominational church membership. The paving specialty is becoming attractive to contractors who may not have considered it before, an interest prompted by new paving equipment technology that helps reduce operator error. The tremendous growth in attachment sales is perhaps the best indicator that contractors are using their equipment for multi-task operations, allowing them to gain expertise in areas once foreign to them.

While we wait for the real truth to reveal itself for issues like the war in the Middle East and the quandary over rebuilding New Orleans, we can find comfort in knowing that construction remains strong and growing, and that is some great news for a change.