Instead of focusing on merely surviving the Southeast's vicious downturn, Skanska USA's Southeast operation has used the slower times to improve its capabilities and people. It has been adopting new approaches to construction, accelerating field adoption of emerging technology and diversifying and deepening its talent pool. It is even expanding into new geographic markets.

It is a strategy borne of necessity that has turned into a survival tactic, says Scott MacLeod, co-chief operating officer for the Southeast in Skanska USA's Raleigh office. "We were concerned about the future and knew that cutting overhead and shrinking was not sustainable," he says.

 

MACLEOD
The downturn's longer-than-expected duration has given the Atlanta-based Skanska USA Southeast's operation even more time to rebuild its own infrastructure. The effort is a response to a marketplace that is demanding better performance and faster and more intelligent information, says MacLeod.

For the results it has achieved so far, ENR Southeast recognizes Skanska USA as its Contractor of the Year.

Changing Fortunes

The most basic criteria for receiving recognition as Contractor of the Year is business success. On that score, Skanska USA earned high marks. The company's 2011 Southeast revenue total improved by 18%, or $109.8 million, compared with the same period a year ago, resulting in $711.8 million in revenue for 2011. The achievement was notable since Skanska was the second-highest ranked firm to record an increase, after the top-ranked KBR, which improved by 44%.

Skanska USA's Southeast operation ranked fifth on the latest Top Contractors list. Skanska USA's total revenue in the U.S. in 2011 was $5.3 billion. It ranked seventh on the ENR Top 400 Contractors list.

Noteworthy new contracts in the Southeast region hint at the firm's savvy positioning during a down market. Earlier this year, the Tampa office started work on the first building—an $80-million science and technology facility—at the Santiago Calatrava-designed campus of Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland.

Also in 2011, Skanska USA started work on a $141-million University of North Carolina Hospital in Hillsborough. And more recently, the civil division, in a joint venture with Ajax Paving Industries, landed a $215.4-million Florida Dept. of Transportation contract to reconstruct a section of Interstate 275 in Hillsborough County.

"Fortunately for us, the sectors that took the full force of the downturn were retail, corporate/commercial and high-rise residential," says John Reyhan, general manager for Georgia in Skanska USA's Atlanta office. "We did not have a major position in any of those markets at that time," he adds.

The company had shifted its focus to health care and higher-education work. Reyhan credits Georgia's development of its technical college system and an overall increase in statewide enrollment for the relatively steady flow of contracts in recent years.

He also attributes some success to the Atlanta office's increasing emphasis on near-site preassembly of overhead racks for mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems for higher education and health care projects. Skanska USA pioneered the prefabrication approach a few years ago on a hospital in Dayton, Ohio.