Over the last several years, construction firms performing work throughout the Southwest have been hoping that activity would pick up. For the most part, it has. In fact, six of the top 10 and five of the top seven firms responding to ENR Southwest's annual survey of general contractors reported an increase in revenue during 2013 compared with the prior year.

But more than six years since the downturn hit the U.S., it is becoming clear to many construction executives that "recovery" doesn't necessarily mean a return to levels seen in 2006. Industry insiders call it a "new normal" that includes steady, measured growth and enough activity for the firms still standing to prosper.

Ray Sedey, vice president in the Las Vegas office of McCarthy Building Cos., says the industry hasn't returned to peak 2006 levels because "maybe what was going on then was out of control."

Las Vegas Market Heats Up

Reaching previous peak levels might be years away, but construction activity remains steady.

John Cannito, chief operating officer of Las Vegas-based PENTA Building Group, says that "2013 was a growth year for us. Since the original hit of the downturn in the private market in the Southwest, we have gone through the last three years in a continued expansion."

PENTA has been one of the leading firms during the slow Las Vegas recovery, ranking first in Nevada based on 2013 revenue, according to the Top Contractors survey. The firm recently completed the SLS Las Vegas renovation of the Sahara; the Zappos headquarters—a renovation of the former Las Vegas City Hall; and a $43-million expansion of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America training center.