This past September, we held our Annual Roundtable Discussion prior to the American Society of Concrete Contractor's (ASCC) Annual Conference in San Antonio.
As Hurricane Ike barreled toward the coast of Texas, many ASCC Conference attendees and roundtable participants—contractors just like you—grappled with weathering the storm, or getting out before conditions worsened.
In the end, most attendees stayed, and San Antonio was spared. However, the hurricane did manage to tear through other parts of the state, leaving a path of destruction that will take years to clean up and repair.
Symbolism aside, we met for our roundtable discussion and many panelists were anxious about the hurricane, but their concern was more focused on the future of the construction industry.
What did the contractors at our Roundtable Discussion have to say?
First, the positives:
- Tilt-up, decorative, institutional, infrastructure, commercial, and government-related markets are still strong. Pervious concrete is gaining momentum; but the contractor must be proactively selling the benefits of pervious to potential clients.
- As concrete projects age, repair, rehabilitation, and maintenance programs are increasing.
- BIM is the next technology that profoundly will impact the industry.
- Fewer labor shortages allow contractors to hire quality workers and tradesmen laid off by others.
- Diversifying your business helps contractors remain profitable. The business is out there; you have to be proactive and find it.
Invariably, I have to list the negatives:
- The residential market is not expected to rebound until 2010.
- Construction industry outlooks/predictions have forced contractors to be more conservative. Some question whether or not industry outlooks/predictions are truly accurate, while others feel the state of the industry is being blown out of proportion.
- Suppliers and equipment manufacturers are increasing costs, directly impacting a contractor's bottom line.
- Securing financing for construction projects is a huge problem.
- Contractors are concerned about the future of the industry; who is going to run their business and where are the next generation of personnel going to come from in 10 years.
The most profound piece of information that I took away from the Roundtable Discussion was that contractors today are busy, and some even have a backlog of projects into 2009. Panelists agree there is work out there; a contractor must be proactive and find that work. Diversify your business and examine the possibility for additional opportunities by aggressively pursuing new business such as decorative concrete, institutional projects, and repair and maintenance contracts.
It is also vital you deconstruct your own business. Dissect every aspect of your company and determine where there may be potential growth, and be honest with yourself when you need to scale back stagnant divisions.
The lingering effects from this storm will hang around for a while, but this soon shall pass.
Editor in Chief