Many of the industry trends to watch in 2015 will be the same as those in 2014, says Brian Freeman, executive vice president at Skanska in San Antonio. "Health care, hospitality, school construction—those markets will remain solid and even see some uptick this year," he says.
Residential and multifamily are also showing strength, while the public sector and higher education are lagging, says Charlie Buescher, vice president of business development for McCarthy Building Cos.
Given the number of 2014 project starts in Texas and Louisiana, the region's building markets are healthy. According to Dodge Data & Analytics, approximately $91 billion in work started in the two states in 2014. Texas activity climbed from $57 billion in 2012 to $63 billion in 2013, then up to $80 billion in 2014. That trend is expected to continue.
Louisiana, on the other hand, saw activity decline from $15 billion in 2012 to $14.7 billion in 2013, then to $11 billion in 2014. But some of the drop can be attributed to increased lead-time between project announcements and actual groundbreakings. In 2014, the state announced more than $16 billion in new capital investment, according to Louisiana Economic Development.
The agency projects that "in 2015, Louisiana's economy will experience significant job growth from projects announced over the past few years that are still ramping up," such as Yuhuang Chemical's upcoming $1.85-billion methanol project.
Ongoing Work Force Issues
Labor issues will still be on the minds of contractors throughout the region. "I think that trend is going to stick with us for a little while because the market is still strong and robust," Freeman says.
Statistics show expansive growth. The January 2015 issue of the Texas Labor Market Review from the Texas Workforce Commission reported: "The construction industry added 47,500 positions over the year for a 7.7% annual growth rate, [marking] the industry's highest annual growth rate since November 2007."
Meanwhile, the Louisiana Workforce Commission's short-term employment projections for 2015 forecast a 22% growth in construction industry employment in 2015 over 2013 figures.
"We inherently are focused on recruitment, and I'd say that's the number one topic right now in our industry, looking for experienced labor both on the technical side in the office, but also field labor to construct these projects as well," Buescher explains.