The construction industry may still be stuck in low gear as a result of lingering economic trouble, but the Southeast's contractors and designers are obviously not wasting any time showcasing their expanding set of tools and capabilities as they team up on impressive projects throughout the region.

At least that's the conclusion drawn from the projects recognized here by ENR Southeast's 12th annual Best Projects competition. Indeed, the numerous projects featured in the following pages showcase true industry accomplishments. From a one-of-a-kind retractable-roof ballpark that features an innovative approach to withstanding hurricane-force winds, to a Florida theme park designed and built in just 15 months, to everything in between, it's clear there's plenty of good work being done by Southeast firms.

For this year's contest, contractors, owners and design firms submitted more than 100 entries, covering projects in the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Of that number, this year's judges—meeting via three separate panels—ultimately deemed 27 projects, in 17 categories, as worthy of special recognition.

Nine judges divided the workload of reviewing the 105 entries in order to determine the main category winners. This year's judges provided a broad range of industry experience and included the following: Loreen Bobo, Interstate 4 project manager with the Florida Dept. of Transportation, Orlando; Steve Cona III, chief operating officer with the Florida Gulf Coast chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors, Tampa; Ken Cristol, president of Cristol Marketing Co., Longwood, Fla.; Brent Darnell, owner of industry consulting firm Brent Darnell International, Atlanta; Keith Douglas, senior vice president with Whiting-Turner, Atlanta; Shelley Gisclar, director of business development with SmartStructures, Orlando; Bruce Kershner, president of the Underground Utility Contractors of Florida, Longwood; Michael Laas, with Gannett Fleming, Miami; and Princeton Porter, designer with HDR Architecture, Atlanta.

ENR Southeast initiated a new award recognizing project safety for this year's contest. As Janice L. Tuchman, ENR's editor-in-chief, noted in our September announcement of these inaugural safety winners: "Safety has always been an important area of ENR's coverage because it is so important to our readers. It has been one of the Best Projects competition's criteria from the beginning, but we think it deserves this special recognition."

Any project could be considered for this honor—in addition to the conventional category awards—and companies offered more than 60 entries to vie for this honor. To properly judge this huge field for safety excellence, ENR Southeast utilized the service of two experts: Hendrik van Brenk, chief environmental, health and safety officer with Skanska USA in Atlanta, and Gaylord Ballard, senior health, safety and environment manager with KBR Building Group in Durham, N.C.

Van Brenk and Ballard agreed that Miami International Airport's new people mover system had earned the safety award, thus bestowing a second prize on this project.

Click here to view a slideshow of this year's 'Best Projects' award winners by category.