It�s no secret: 2009 was another bad year for many contractors working in the four-state Southeast region.
Numerous firms closed their doors for good. Others sold out to bigger, more prosperous contractors. Nationally, unemployment in the construction industry topped 22% at one point in 2009, only to escalate further in 2010. And unless a contractor was able to snag some stimulus work, opportunities remained relatively sparse.
In that regard, being recognized as the �Contractor of the Year� for accomplishments in 2009 could be viewed as akin to winning an award for making the best of a bad situation. And by any standard, it�s clear that Charlotte, N.C.-based BE&K Building Group did that and more.
BE&K Building Group didn�t earn the most 2009 regional revenue of any contractor working in the Southeast. In fact, it placed sixth in that regard (see Southeast Construction�s Top Contractors ranking), with approximately $686.6 million in regional revenue.
(The determination of Southeast Construction�s �Contractor of the Year� is based on numerous factors, of which business activity is only one.)
However, in an industry that still remains mostly in recession, BE&K did something that almost any other firm in the region would envy. It landed 22 new Southeast projects in 2009, together totaling an estimated $1.3 billion.
Among those was its big win�in partnership with Turner Construction of Charlotte�of the contract to build the $250-million Boeing 787 Dreamliner Final Assembly Plant in North Charleston, S.C.
That Boeing contract was a big win. The South Carolina Legislature, backed by estimates that the facility would eventually generate nearly 4,000 jobs, lavished incentives upon Boeing�incentives that have since been estimated at between $800 million and $1 billion in value. Boeing, in turn, pledged a $750 million corporate investment in its South Carolina facilities over time.
And when Boeing announced it would indeed build its second Dreamliner final assembly plant in South Carolina instead of Washington�where the first one is located�shockwaves reverberated from Columbia to Seattle.
In a sense, that Boeing deal was symbolic of 2009�s construction market in general: government funding construction, one way or another, in hopes of boosting respective economies out of the doldrums.
And BE&K�along with its construction partner Turner Construction�was right in the middle of it.
�It was a tough year, but we had some major, signature wins going into a year like 2010 that enabled us to keep our people busy,� says Luther Cochrane, CEO and chairman of BE&K Building Group, a division of KBR of Houston.
Mac Carpenter, company senior vice president and project executive for the Boeing project, adds, �We were just very fortunate and blessed by being in the right place at the right time.�
The company must have been hopping.
In addition to that Boeing job, BE&K kept busy with more than $800 million worth of health-care contracts, including the $360-million Duke University Medical Pavilion and Cancer Center project in Durham, N.C.; a $98-million patient bed tower and renovation at Carolinas Medical Center in Pineville, N.C.; $80-million School of Dentistry at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta; $86.7-million addition to the School of Dentistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and several others.
While other builders were forced to the sidelines in 2009 with signed contracts that owners couldn�t obtain financing for, BE&K found its clients in the game and ready to roll.