We’re nothing if not creatures of habit and routine. Just as I know that every September begins the judging process for that year’s Best Of awards, February and early March mean gathering data for our annual Top Contractors rankings.

It’s not as difficult as it sounds: we simply leave it to you guys to get us as much information to us as you can. We begin sending out the surveys in the early part of the year, setting a deadline for the last week, or so, of February. The surveys ask each firm to break down the amount of revenue they brought in the previous year in a number of different regional and discipline-oriented categories. Once we get the surveys in, we compile the data and we rank the firms in descending order based on the amount of revenue in each category.

The Top Contractor issue is usually one of our most popular, eagerly anticipated and widely read of the 12 (now 10) we produce each year. I doubt its popularity will change this year, nor will the process by which we obtain and gather the data.

But boy did the results change this year.

For instance, our top 5 firms averaged losses north of $80 million in Tri-State regional revenue from 2008 to 2009 (since 2007 those same firms have seen their regional revenue fall by an average of more than $300 million!). Firms that are traditionally ranked high on the list, but specialize more in commercial and residential work found themselves sliding down the rankings, while firms with a firm hold on the heavy/highway, mass transit and public works markets (and to a lesser extent health care and higher/K-12 education) made a noticeable climb in the charts.

Perhaps most conspicuously, our rankings dipped from a Top 100 list last year back down to a Top 75 list. We determine the cutoff point based on the number of submissions we receive. Even in previous years when we’ve published a Top 75 ranking, we received well over 100 submissions. This year we did not. We published a Top 75 list out of necessity - that’s pretty much all we got.

Asking around the industry, it was pretty simple why many firms chose not to participate. “Why would we want to show everyone how we did last year? We don’t even like to look at how we did last year!” said one industry executive whose firm opted out of the rankings this year.

However, on the positive side, we did see seven new firms crack the Top 75 this year, which is always something to cheer about. Those are seven companies that have either failed to make the cut before or that have never submitted until this year. Either way, these firms all had successes in 2009 they deemed worthy of sharing with the rest of the industry and I applaud them and welcome them all to our pages.

Additionally, we saw, for the second consecutive year, a new firm take over the Number One spot. Last year it was Tishman Construction, this year it was Skanska USA. Riding its heavy roster of mega-infrastructure projects, as well as a steady stream of general building jobs, Skanska jumped from Number 4 last year to the top spot. My congratulations to them.

Even with the irregularities in the charts between this year and other years, and even with the handful of new names and the absences of several others, the names in this year’s rankings still look pretty much the same. Even with the economic recession that has so drastically affected this industry, it’s reassuring to see all of the familiar names back in our charts and on our pages and I wish everybody luck in the balance of 2010. We look forward to seeing you all back here next year.

Jack Buehrer