"To what degree this continues over the next few years will have an impact on the markets in our region," he says. "We're blessed to be in areas that are attractive to private business, so if the financial markets cooperate, we hope to see more investment in facilities in the near future."

Brandt has also seen increased demand for it to provide design-build and MEP services on a range of projects. Most of the firm's work this past year came from health care, higher education and data center construction. That includes Texas Christian University's new Amon Carter football stadium, which opened in September, as well as the renovation of Dallas' Love Field, which is ongoing. The firm is also working on the 2.5-million-sq-ft Parkland Hospital, which will open in 2014, as well as the San Antonio Military Medical Center, a leading-edge health care facility for active military and veterans.


Moving forward, the construction business, like many others in Texas and Louisiana, will likely be looking toward the shale plays and the natural gas boom.

"It's not just the natural gas, it's also the building blocks for raw chemicals" that could lead to potential growth not only in the energy and liquid fuels sectors but in the specialty chemicals area as well, Wallace says.

But if there's one thing the downturn has done, it's made clients look for the most value out of every dollar spent, Moore says. "They're asking us to be more significantly involved in the design and planning of projects, large and small. We've seen an increase in our involvement with collaborative teams, where design and construction members work together in the project planning phase."

Wallace adds that clients are also refocusing their contractor selection priorities. "Before 2009, contractors were hired based on quality, safety and price. Then it kind of reverted back and went price, quality, safety. Now we're seeing a larger emphasis put on safety, quality and then pricing," Wallace says. "I think that we all realized that safety is good business. You can make a tremendous difference to the bottom line when you have a vibrant safety process."

Specialty contractors in Texas and Louisiana will continue to see the market move upward through the next five years. But Wallace predicts that a major worry is how firms will be able to staff all the work that's forthcoming—a concern shared by executives throughout the region.