Like Georgia, South Carolina was the only other Southeast state to experience positive figures for its nonresidential construction category. The state recorded roughly $2.2 billion in new nonresidential contracts last year, a 13 percent gain. Nonbuilding was the big mover, though, jumping 33 percent over 2010 to total $2.2 billion for 2011.

For 2012, McGraw-Hill economists see a shift in the state's building markets. While the residential sector eked out a 1 percent gain in '11, it should pick up the pace considerably in 2012 and improve by 15 percent over last year's $3.4 billion.

And the nonresidential category will resume its recent roller-coaster ways in 2012, the economists predict. After experiencing a 19 percent decline in 2010, this sector improved by 13 percent in '11 for a $2.2-billion total. However, the coming year should see declining fortunes again, with a 14 percent drop forecast.

Nonbuilding, which improved by 33 percent in 2011 and delivered $1.6 billion in new contracts, should see another 25 percent gain in 2012.

Together, South Carolina contracts should grow again in 2012. McGraw-Hill Construction forecasts an 8 percent gain over 2011's overall estimate of $7.8 billion, to deliver roughly $8.5 billion in new work for 2012.

Bill Caldwell, president of Waldrop Mechanical, Spartanburg, agrees with the economists.

"Construction opportunities should increase due to recent major announcements in the manufacturing and distribution markets," Caldwell said via e-mail, citing projects being developed by Continental Tire, Amazon, BMW, Bridgestone Tire and Bosch Rexroth. He also cited the continuing impact of Boeing's recently completed Dreamliner production facility in North Charleston.

"New projects by suppliers of Boeing should prompt increased construction activity," Caldwell adds. He also foresees continuing opportunities at the University of South Carolina, Clemson University and Coastal Carolina University.

On the down side, Caldwell said, "Commercial and hospitality-related construction opportunities remain few and far between."