The Colorado construction economy should see moderate to strong growth next year, largely because the state is “way ahead of the nation in its rate of population growth,” more than doubling the national growth rate of 0.8%.
That was part of the good news about the industry from Ken Simonson, chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, speaking to members of the Colorado Contractors Association on Feb. 5 at CCA’s annual conference in Westminster. CCA is AGC’s heavy/highway chapter in the state.
But, Simonson said, the highway segment of the industry may find “it tough in 2015 to stay level with 2014 volume” because of uncertainty in long-term funding for the Highway Trust Fund. It could run out of money by Memorial Day, and that “will make for another cliff-hanger year” for transportation spending, he said. Highway spending could drop even more in 2016, Simonson added.
The construction industry continues to add jobs, he said, but more than 300,000 people left the industry, for one reason or another, during the recession, and aren’t likely to return. “Where are those 300,000 replacements going to come from?” he asked.
Colorado contractors have added jobs every month for the past three years, and three-quarters of contracting firms across the U.S. are adding jobs on a regular basis. Greeley and Weld County have been consistently at the top of the list of job-creating regions in the country.
Simonson was one of several keynote speakers for the CCA conference, called “Constructing the Next Generation.” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke to the group on Friday. The three-day event was also highlighted by the unveiling of the association’s new logo, branding and slogan: “Bringing Infrastructure to Life.”
“CCA’s new brand is so much more than just a refreshed logo,” said CCA Executive Director Tony Milo. “It’s a bolder, more inclusive platform that welcomes a more diverse constituency, including younger people, utility contractors, subcontractors and small and disadvantaged businesses. It takes this diverse group of leaders to bring infrastructure to life.
“We had more than 40 young people meet during the conference to kick off a new young leaders group within CCA, and we’re excited to see what they will accomplish in the coming year,” Milo said.
“As a younger generation that has entered the industry within the past five to 10 years, it is critical that we build our own community within the larger industry,” said Betsy Wagner of Wagner Equipment. “We feel that this community will be critical in developing lasting business and personal relationships, encourage cross-industry communication and inspiring change as we face a constantly evolving business culture.”
CCA’s annual awards, presented during the conference, honored Charlie Gechter of Precision Excavating, Steven Yelton of Precision Excavating and Wagner Equipment Co. for workforce development. The 2014 Environmental Excellence Award was presented to ZoZo Group LLC. Traveling Safety honors went to Blue Ridge Construction, Coulson Excavating Co. Inc., Brannan Sand & Gravel Co. and United Cos. of Mesa County Inc.
Construction Pioneer Awards were presented to Dave Horn, president of Horn Construction, Trish Sandau, president of Northern Colorado Traffic Control and Marion Monteleone, director of sales and marketing at Martin Marietta. Don Appleby was honored with Associate of the Year, and the Contractor of the Year Award went to Toni and Larry Winkler of W.L. Contractors.