Pernicano, whose fence company concentrates on commercial and public works infrastructure projects such as metal guard rail and right-of-way fences, says to stay competitive Area-West is reducing overhead, cutting costs and trying not to bid so much quantity. Instead, he says his firm is working on building client relationships more and increasing the personal face-to-face touch.

“When times were good we tended to get everything online with technology,” he says. “But people still do business with people and not just numbers.”

Joe Cvetas
Guenter Meiburg

He says that out in the field, the company is focusing on military and federal projects because “that’s where the money is.”

For Irvine-based Southland Industries, the money is in education and healthcare, says Joseph G. Cvetas, the company’s regional president.

In Northern California, Southland is doing the HVAC and plumbing on the 1.2-million-sq-ft California Pacific Medical Center Cathedral Hill Hospital project in San Francisco. Designed to be LEED silver, the 555-bed hospital is scheduled for completion in 2015.

And in Southern California, the company is working on the HVAC and plumbing on the 450,000-sq-ft Kaiser Fontana Hospital, which is under construction and headed for a 2012 completion. The 312-bed, seven-story hospital will replace the existing hospital on the medical center’s campus and meet new, more rigorous California seismic safety standards.

Cvetas says that thanks to projects like these Southland is more worried about “the portability” of its people than competition from other specialty contractors.

“We have four offices and as the [work] volume shifts in those markets, we work hard to relocate key people from one area to another,” he adds. “We put a lot of energy into training and the development of our people, so it’s critical to move them as markets shift.”

Guzzi says EMCOR is looking at California and focusing its energy on healthcare, the institutional market and energy retrofits.

“We think energy retrofit was a great market prior to November 2008 and we think it will be a great market again,” he says.