...Infrastructure Committee Chairman James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.) chided governors of South Carolina and Florida for the poorest records, with only 3% and 2%, respectively, of projects under way. Donald Laskey, president of Laskey-Clifton Corp., a Reedsport, Ore., heavy- civil contractor, says he “would not have had any work for our paving crew this year” without a $4.9-million ARRA paving project set to finish on Sept. 30. The job preserved or created 22 company jobs and 14 additional jobs for suppliers and subcontractors. “I think we are going to have a good year,” he says.

American Infrastructure, a Worcester, Pa., highway firm, “has clearly benefitted” since winning one of ARRA’s first projects in Maryland last March, says Mark Compton, government affairs director. “Last fall, it was pretty bleak. About 350 of our 1,900 workers were on layoff,” with no plans to rehire them until after Memorial Day, he says. Stimulus work has balanced falloffs in AI’s private-sector work and pushed hiring in some areas to obtain “new skill sets,” says Compton, who adds that the firm has now decided to reopen a 500-ton-per-hour asphalt plant in Jessup, Md., that was to be “mothballed.”

The U.S. Energy Dept. also has fast-tracked its $6 billion of stimulus funding to expedite nuclear-waste cleanup projects already planned at former U.S. weapons sites, resulting in more than 4,000 new and saved jobs in craft, technical and managerial areas.

“We had contractors onboard with 100% of project scope already in contracts,” says Jon Peschong, program manager for the largest chunk of ARRA work at DOE’s Hanford site in eastern Washington, budgeted at $1.6 billion. “We are now able to accelerate by two years projects set for 2012 and 2013,” he adds. These projects include demolition of heavily contaminated, 60-year-old former production facilities and construction of the site’s groundwater treatment plant. An April job fair at the site drew more than 3,500 attendees, says a spokeswoman for CH2M Hill Cos., a key site contractor.

John Britton, spokesman for DOE’s effort to remove and treat waste from 177 underground tanks, anticipates 700 direct and indirect ARRA jobs funded through fiscal 2011, “with hope they will stay for their entire careers.” Britton says 75% of Hanford’s workforce could retire in five years. “We want older workers to train new ones,” he says.

DOE’s Savannah River site in Aiken, S.C., hopes to create or save 3,000 jobs with its $1.6 billion of ARRA funding, says Dennis Carr, deputy project manager for 17 stimulus-funded projects and a vice president at Fluor Corp., Irving, Texas, which is now managing the site. It has marching orders to shrink the 300-sq-mile site by 45% for “a possible future mission,” he says. “To do that, we are bringing on significant numbers of workers, from supervisors and engineers to waste handlers and shippers,” says Carr. “People have driven hours to be at our job fairs, and we now have more than 15,000 résumés in hand. You can see how deep the problems are economically.” Major DOE cleanup sites in Tennessee and Idaho and a host of smaller ones are similarly accelerating cleanup of legacy production waste.

Sylvia Medina
Small firm won DOE stimulus work, but others struggle.
— Sylvia Medina
CEO,Northwind INC

North Wind Inc., a $62-million-a-year engineering firm based in Idaho Falls, credits ARRA-funded DOE and state cleanup work with adding at least 30 to 40 positions to its staff of 350, says founder and CEO Sylvia Medina. She credits a mentor-protégé contracting relationship with Bechtel Corp. for a number of DOE cleanup awards, but recently testified before Congress about the difficulties small businesses have in obtaining DOE stimulus contracts. “In some cases, [large management] contractors are actually hiring staff away from small businesses to support their own efforts rather than bidding out project work,” she told a U.S. Senate committee in May.

Non-DOE cleanups also are getting a stimulus boost, with at least $700 million committed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for Superfund and brownfield remediation. Sevenson Corp., a Niagara Falls, N.Y., contractor, has added about 80 professional and craft positions to accommodate an extra $70 million of stimulus funds for its cleanups, says CEO Michael Elia. A dredging project in New Bedford, Mass., harbor, will operate for 120 days in 2009, double its usual time in the past six years, he adds.

Firms also are chasing smaller water and wastewater projects for which schedules are being ramped up by EPA stimulus money. Layne Christensen Co., Shawnee Mission, Kan., is now short-listed for a $20-million flood project in Louisville, Ky., that it had not expected for one or two years, says a spokesman. But other firms are less enthused about the market impact. Dan McCarthy, CEO of Overland Park, Kan.-based Black & Veatch’s global water business, says most ARRA funding is going to projects already in the pipeline rather than new ones. Rules requiring utilities to “Buy American” and allocate 20% of state revolving loan funds to green infrastructure have been “challenging,” admitted EPA Assistant Administrator Craig Hooks in recent testimony. “That is good, but it is not shovel-ready,” says Wayne Klotz, president of the American Society of Civil Engineers. “Stimulus dollars are not flowing yet to the design industry. Whether the money will help out in 2010 is the question.”

DOE Site Cleanups: A Stimulus-Job Snapshot*
Site and Location # ofApplicants Saved Jobs New Jobs Total Jobs
Savannah River Site, S.C. 10,300 798 612 1,410
Hanford (Richland), Wash. 10,395 300 855 1,155
Oak Ridge, Tenn. 6,500 44 421 465
INEL, Idaho 4,567 240 168 408
Hanford (ORP), Wash. 6,393 56 150 206
WIPP, N.M. N/A 16 97 113
Brookhaven,N.Y. N/A 45 34 79
West Valley, N.Y. 1,128 0 76 76
Portsmouth, Ohio 1,497 8 42 50
Other** 3,765 31 94 125
TOTALS 44,545 1,538 2,549 4,087
*as of July 3, 2009; ** sites in Ohio, kentucky, Illinois, nevada and california; N/A=Not available.
Source: U.S. DOE.

Steven Halverson, CEO of The Haskell Group, Jacksonville, Fla., says the contracting progress on some municipal water-wastewater projects is being delayed as cities seek to incorporate ARRA funds. “That has really slowed our water-wastewater business,” a 15% chunk of firm revenue, he says. Halverson says Haskell’s solid backlog will carry it through 2009, but 2010 may be different. He says the firm may “sacrifice profits to keep key people onboard.”

Hard-hit building-sector firms hope to gain stimulus work from new federal projects, such as the U.S. General Services Administration’s accelerated phases to renovate U.S. Commerce Dept. offices in Washington, D.C. The...