As we take a look back at the accomplishments and challenges of 2009, we ask our readers to join in the discussion by telling us what you think the year ahead will bring. Our one-click poll asks: "How do you see construction opportunities in Texas during 2010?" No need to register or provide information about yourself. Really. Just click here. Results will be published in our January issue outlook feature.

Photo: Aerial Photography
Manhattan Construction finished the Dallas Cowboys stadium in 2009.

While Texas hasn’t completely escaped the worst recession since World War II, its design and construction professionals have weathered the storm better than firms in many parts of the country.

“There has been a slowdown in the economy, but there is always a silver lining if you look for it,” says Kamal Ariss, vice president of JE Dunn Construction in Houston. He expects Texas will take off again. “We are doing everything we can to prepare for that. We will be ready for the next hot spot of work.”

JE Dunn completed the $78-million Mosaic condominium in Houston and the $85-million Texas A&M University Interdisciplinary Life Science Building in College Station in 2009.

“We’ve had many blessings, and in spite of the turndown, this has been a remarkable year for our company,” says David Spaw, CEO of SpawMaxwell, with offices in Houston, Dallas and Austin. “Texas is the best place to be in this recession. It looks like we will be the last state to feel it and the first to recover.”

SpawMaxwell, which announced last week the firm is being acquired by Dallas-based Balfour Beatty, began a $28-million library for the city of Houston and completed an office project for the Lance Armstrong Foundation in East Austin in 2009.

“Surprisingly, I think it has been a lot better than a lot of people envisioned,” says Cameron Curtis, manager of business development with Turner Construction Co. in Dallas. There were a number of projects that kept progressing, he says, including more than $1 billion in school projects. “People are still moving to the area, and they still need schools.”

Turner has had several higher-education projects, including project-management work at Texas A&M University in College Station. It also has construction projects for Tarrant County Community College and the Dallas Community College District, as well as K-12 school projects in Mansfield Independent School District and jail projects in Fort Bend and Brazos counties. Turner opened an office in San Antonio in 2009 to establish a permanent presence in the city.

“What was cool about 2009 was the amount of large projects and the continuous flow of projects that came out in the state of Texas,” says Brian Freeman, executive vice president of Texas operations for Skanska USA Building in San Antonio. “Texas has been extremely vibrant. It’s a pretty good place to be right now.”

Skanska broke ground in 2009 on a $70-million, 181,000-sq-ft tri-services lab for the U.S. Corps of Engineers at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. The company also started a $50-million Texas A&M Agricultural Headquarters in College Station and a $100-million parking garage and clinic project for the Harris County Hospital District in Houston.

Chris Peck, vice president of the Texas Division of McCarthy Building Cos. in Dallas, adds, “2009 was a tale of two interesting dynamics. Despite the recession, we still see a great deal of project opportunity, but with that we have seen an incredible amount of competition.”

McCarthy won another contract at the Bayport Container Terminal at the Port of Houston, this one for $35.9 million to complete phases one and two of the Container Yard.

David Pinson, president of the Dallas division of Walton Construction Co. in Dallas, says 2009 turned out to be tougher than expected.

“We were hit a little harder than I anticipated, and it’s lasted longer than anyone wanted to think about,” Pinson adds. “The uncertainty of when it will be over hasn’t been answered either.”

Walton Construction has several projects concurrently running at the Naval Air Station in Fort Worth and is building a $42-million medical clinic at Fort Bliss in El Paso.

Leonard Rejcek, president of Manhattan Construction of Tulsa, Okla., considers the successful completion of his firm’s largest project ever, the $1.2-billion Dallas Cowboys Stadium, a highlight for the year. The company also finished Energy Center II in Houston.

“It’s been a good year, all working off backlog,” Rejcek says.