For the Southeast's construction industry, 2011 wasn't much to write home about. In fact, one could say that 2011 "wasn't" a whole lot of things. It wasn't the year that high-speed rail headed down the track in Florida. It wasn't the year of significant recovery, as some prognosticators—including McGraw-Hill Construction, publisher of ENR—predicted it would be. Though, in their defense, things started to look up in the latter half of the year.
It also wasn't the year when commercial building construction started to come back to pre-bust levels. Though there were rumblings out of South Florida in the latter half of the year that seemed to indicate some sort of resurgence. And it sure wasn't the year of stimulus.
Of course, "news" is often less than positive, and the Southeast's construction industry certainly saw its share of negatives. The year got started with big news out of Tallahassee when Gov. Rick Scott rejected federal funding for a proposed high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando. That event was seen as either horrific or wonderful, depending upon a person's political leanings.
Then there were the more plainly negative outcomes. Illegal workers found hidden at a federal construction site in Orlando. Cracks were discovered at a nuclear powerplant in Florida, requiring an estimated $1 billion in repairs. A Progress Energy building under demolition in the St. Petersburg, Fla., area collapsed, killing a 65-year-old welder. Hurricane Irene wiped out a highway connecting the Outer Banks to the mainland. And of course, there were those nerve-rattling debt-limit talks in Washington, D.C.
Controversies popped up in the Southeast, too, though there was usually a federal connection. For instance, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation that toughened the state's laws and regulations regarding immigration—a measure that impacted the state's construction firms as well. And the National Labor Relations Board ruled in May that Boeing couldn't locate its second 787 Dreamliner production line in South Carolina after all—just a few months before the company was nearly finished building it.
There were positives, too, though. Orlando's $383-million performing arts center project got kick-started. Miami's $1-billion port tunnel project got under way. And Southern Co.'s multi-billion-dollar nuclear powerplant project—the nation's first new nuke plant in decades—boosted the pace of Georgia construction activity.
As the year winds down, ENR Southeast pauses to take a look back at the year that was -- and wasn't -- with a review of some of the bigger news stories for the region's construction and design industries, with a slideshow that hits the high spots.