The Southeast's largest projects last year continued to fall within the same few construction categories as they did in 2010, according to the latest Top Starts ranking by ENR Southeast. Energy, health-care and public-sector market categories again were dominant.

Only five of the 25 projects ranked on the list came from other categories. One of those, a retirement facility, could be considered health care-related.

The power market generated the top three spots on this year's Top Starts ranking, with projects from utilities FPL and Progress Energy and from a four-year-old firm called American Renewables representing more than $2 billion in project value.

The strong health-care construction market, however, was most noteworthy for traditional building contractors. The Top Starts list includes seven projects in that market sector—not including the retirement facility—in all four states covered by ENR Southeast. Health care remains one of the most promising areas for future work.

Scott Skidelsky, vice president of Turner Construction Co., Orlando, calls health care "[one of] the most currently active and promising markets in the Southeast." He adds that the sector "continues to be strong as the needs continue for new facilities and renovating existing ones."

Rex Kirby, president with Suffolk Construction Co. in West Palm Beach, agrees. "The health-care sector is one of the areas we see signs of slow but continued growth," he says. "As the economy picks up, we are seeing more opportunities."

Pat Rodgers, chief executive officer with Rodgers Builders in Charlotte, N.C., believes that an improving economy should push more health-care projects forward. "We think there is some pent-up demand for the health-care market," she says. "During this economic downturn, we saw a number of projects put on hold or scaled back, and in some cases cancelled—but the demand has continued."

Public construction remained a mainstay in 2011, with state transportation departments in North Carolina and Florida collectively moving forward on five major infrastructure projects on this year's ranking, including Turner Construction's $83-million Miami Central Station project near Miami International Airport. Municipal entities were active as well, adding a performing arts center and two airport projects that together totaled more than $600 million.

Trends: Some New, Some Old

The repeat performances of the energy, health-care and public markets on this ranking may be winding down as privately funded projects start gaining some measure of momentum, at least in certain locations.