Industrial projects have helped lift Gray Construction.

The growing investment in manufacturing and industrial facilities has helped boost many Top 400 Contractors. One of the biggest beneficiaries on this year's list is Gray Construction in Lexington, Ky.

Gray Construction has years of experience in manufacturing and process plants, but the recession took its toll. The firm had risen to No. 120 on the Top 400 in 2008, reporting 2007 revenue of $534.1 million. By last year, the firm had fallen to No. 182 on the Top 400, with 2010 revenue of $303.7 million.

"In 2008 ... the project leads simply weren't there. This trend lasted for a couple of years, so we were faced with some pretty tough decisions," says Stephen Gray, CEO. By fall 2010, the firm was down to 12 active projects, he says.

However, Gray says the firm decided to stay true to its core markets and values and continue to hire the best and brightest talent it could find. It also redoubled its marketing efforts.

Things started to break in summer 2010. "We found ourselves chasing five large projects for companies like Caterpillar, Whirlpool, Siemens and Mitsubishi," Gray says. By the end of the year, Gray Construction had won all five jobs—all in the $100-million range.

"We have continued to see an upswing in the manufacturing construction market over the past 18 months, particularly in the South where the majority of the projects are clustered," says Gray. He says the firm now has 30 projects under way, totaling around $645 million, and more opportunities are on the horizon. The firm moved up 77 places on the 2012 Top 400 and now ranks at No. 105.