‘Hotlanta’ has cooled off, but government and industrial work has picked up in other parts of the state.
“The driver (in Georgia) has always been Atlanta, and that is not the case now, with the private sector down and out,” says Jeff George, vice president of the Atlanta Commercial Group at Balfour Beatty Construction. Balfour Beatty has turned to opportunities in other parts of the state, including Columbus, where it and Freeman & Associates of Columbus are building the $35-million G.W. Carver High School and a $42-million barracks project at Fort Benning.
“Georgia is doing pretty well, given the economic situation,” adds Dave Butler, vice president and general manager of the Atlanta office of Turner Construction Co. “The biggest market is still on the public side of things.”
Butler says the market for criminal justice and administrative projects for counties and cities is staying steady, but more firms are competing for the jobs. Turner and partner New South Construction of Atlanta received a $100-million, 1,500-bed jail and law-enforcement center project in Douglas County, set to begin later this year. And the company is wrapping up construction on the $62-million Cass High School for Bartow County School System in Cartersville.
“Some health care and higher education has gotten us through, but it’s a tight, aggressive market,” says Larry Beasley, president and chief operating officer of BE&K Building Group in Atlanta. BE&K broke ground in 2008 on the $90-million replacement facility for Piedmont Newnan Hospital in Coweta County, but then the owner placed it on hold for a year. Work started back up in the spring.
The company is also building a $75-million dental school for the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta.
“Georgia is no different than anywhere in the United States,” says Ted Benning, president of Benning Construction in Atlanta. “We are slower than we were, but after two years of things being slow, I think we have seen the bottom of the market.”
Benning has shifted from primarily private sector new construction to more government and renovation projects. The company is working with Pioneer Builders of Knoxville, Tenn., on an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded $757,984 renovation project at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Carl Vinson Medical Center in Dublin, Ga.
Bill Anderson, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Georgia, says the recession has affected both public and private construction.
“There are some bright spots, but the new business opportunities have become increasingly harder to find and are significantly more competitive with lower margins and many more contractors bidding for a job,” Anderson says.
Tom Raney, senior vice president with R.J. Griffin & Co. in Atlanta, adds, “The owners who are building have been benefiting from the low construction costs. The low costs, over an extended period, are starting to impact the marginal general contractors’ and subcontractors’ ability to continue in business. There will be fewer competitors in the business this time next year.”
For Bovis Lend Lease in Atlanta, senior living, airport and higher education projects continue, says Stephen D. Smilie, vice president and director of operations.
“The good news is we are not going down so much anymore, but there is not any real upward trend,” Smilie says.
Bovis is working on a $6.9-million expansion of the health-care center at the continuing-care retirement community Lanier Village Estates in Gainesville, and a $7-million pharmacy school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Suwanee.
“We’re finding work and focusing on where the opportunities are,” adds T. Nelson Sexton, senior vice president of business development at R.J. Griffin & Co.
The contractor is working on a $10-million corporate headquarters for AdvancED, parent company of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in Alpharetta; a $15-million expansion at Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marrietta; and a vertical expansion and renovation at Gwinnett Medical Center in Lawrenceville.
Also, in May it announced receiving a contract, in a teaming agreement with Rives E. Worrell Construction of Savannah, Ga., for a $30-million expansion at Effingham Hospital in Springfield.
Bill Pinto, president of Hardin Construction Co. in Atlanta, also reports some higher education and health-care work, but both sectors continue to experience funding issues. Hardin recently completed a 607-bed, 170,000-sq-ft student-housing project and renovations of two existing buildings for Armstrong Atlantic State University in Savannah; a 61,000-sq-ft recreation center at Young Harris College in Young Harris, north of Atlanta; and an intensive-care unit expansion at Oconee Regional Medical Center in Milledgeville.
The company began work this year on a $9.6-million, 47,751-sq-ft classroom and conference center building at Georgia Northwestern Technical College Gordon Campus in Calhoun.