The Southeast's construction industry has been on its way back for the past couple of years. But now it's definitely accelerating. If the forecasts and prognostications prove accurate, Southeast contractors could soon be off to the races.

If the region's builders aren't convinced by this year's Top Starts ranking—which includes the 2014 starts of two strikingly ambitious Atlanta major league sports stadium projects, several examples from Miami's still-surging residential market and the steadily improving prospects in other Southeast cities—then perhaps the latest forecasts for 2015 might seal the deal.

Judging from the latest figures from Dodge Data & Analytics, ENR's parent company, the year ahead promises to be Southeast builders' busiest in several years, with the company forecasting a 16% overall jump in the region's new contracts. In all, Dodge is projecting nearly $96.7 billion worth of new work. (A state-by-state breakdown begins on the next page.)

Industry officials from across the four-state region appear convinced of the Southeast's strengthening construction prospects as well.

Orlando's construction market is "looking positive on a number of fronts," says Mark Wylie, president and CEO of the Central Florida chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). In addition to the $2.3-billion I-4 Ultimate project that recently started construction, and Orlando International Airport's kickoff for its own $1-billion-plus upgrade, Wylie says the education, hospitality and multifamily sectors should continue to offer opportunities for contractors.

The theme parks should be a source of construction activity, too, Wylie adds, with one example being the estimated $500-million Avatar project, included on this year's Top Starts ranking.

Atlanta, the home of new stadiums for the Braves and Falcons, is definitely picking up momentum, says Bill Anderson, president of the Georgia ABC chapter.

Though Anderson predicts overall "incremental growth" in 2015, he expects the multifamily sector to grow considerably and for the broader commercial market to "pick up" a bit this year. Health care, though, is less promising in terms of growth.

But the overall mood is improving. Says Anderson: "RFPs have picked up, and there appears to be much more 'chatter' in the architect community."

Dave Simpson, interim president and CEO of the Carolinas Associated General Contractors, Charlotte, senses a similar situation across the Carolinas.

"Folks seem a lot happier, and they're more positive about the future," Simpson says. There are reasons for that, including growth in contractor backlogs, he says. And like Wylie and Anderson, Simpson says multifamily construction will be a major force in 2015. Additionally, Simpson cited Charleston, S.C., and North Carolina's Research Triangle Park as metro areas on the rise.

"People are talking about expanding their payrolls," he says. "We're on the verge of some real exciting times."