With many industry economists predicting slow but steady improvement for construction this year and next, firms may see more work coming their way. But as stimulus funding runs out and the industry faces uncertain infrastructure funding from Congress and overburdened state governments, few contractors and designers can rest easy. The six firms featured here have done more than survive; they have thrived in this tough economy through creativity, risk-taking and solid leadership. Each of their stories is slightly different but all have fostered innovation and diversity on their way to increased revenues.

Rowland + Broughton Architecture

Aspen design firm extols diversity and reciprocal relationships with clients

Rowland + Broughton Architecture and Urban Design, Aspen and Denver, has hired eight people in the last four months. R+B opened in 2003, specializing in custom homes and interiors, but has since made significant inroads into the hospitality and small commercial markets, including high-profile remodels of The Little Nell Hotel and the Ajax Tavern in Aspen.

The firm has also stretched its geography, working in Montana, California and Washington, D.C., and posting 2010 revenues of $3.27 million, up from $2.47 million in 2009. “Geography doesn’t matter that much to us,” says principal Sarah Broughton. “We seek out clients anywhere who can mentor us as much as we mentor them.”

R+B’s biggest new project is a 6,000-acre, multi-building ranch compound in Somerset, Colo., and it’s also renovating the Doubletree Hotel in Durango.

Flatiron Construction Co.

Highway and bridge contractor tests the waters with a more diversified project mix

Flatiron, one of the largest road and bridge builders in the western U.S. and Canada, with 2009 revenues of $1 billion, has expanded its regional reach and is testing some new waters—literally.

Flatiron opened an office in American Fork, Utah, in 2009 and won its first project with the Utah Dept. of Transportation—$87 million to widen State Route 92 south of Salt Lake City in north Utah County. Flatiron is the managing partner of a design-build joint venture with Harper Contractors to upgrade a six-mile stretch of highway between Interstate 15 and State Route 74.

Flatiron has also added water/wastewater expertise and won more than $50 million in water/wastewater projects across Utah, with several treatment plants under construction. Flatiron installs systems ranging from reverse osmosis in Durham Valley, Utah, to membrane technology in Henderson City, Nev.

“We’re more focused on innovation,” says Matt Girard, Flatiron’s executive vice president of business development. “We’re encouraging our people to present alternatives that owners may not have considered.”

E Light Electric Services Inc.

Expanding renewables work across the U.S.

E Light Electric Services Inc., Englewood, Colo., is installing 80 MW of renewables across the western U.S. and just completed a 20-MW solar installation in Alamosa, Colo. The electrical contractor is also doing a 6.5-MW design-assist solar project at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and recently completed two design-build, stimulus-funded solar fields with Centerre Construction at the Federal Center in Denver. Today, E Light’s portfolio is comprised of 70% solar work, compared with none four years ago.

Balfour Beatty Construction

Partnering on two big regional projects

Balfour Beatty Construction, headquartered in Dallas, launched two major projects in the Mountain States last year. The firm is managing partner of BDB Design-Builders for the $1.2-billion National Cyber Security Center at Camp Williams south of Salt Lake City. That project broke ground in January.

The digital intelligence center is scheduled to be completed in October 2013. The team includes DPR Construction, Redwood City, Calif., and Salt Lake City-based Big-D Construction.