More contractors across the Mountain States region are smiling these days, with reports of ample available commercial work and healthier backlogs in most markets.

“The mood is good,” says Mark Latimer, president and CEO of the Associated Builders and Contractors’ Rocky Mountain Chapter in Denver. He says that many ABC-member firms are becoming more selective in the projects they’re chasing and have reached their workload capacity.

“We’re seeing continued positive growth in Denver, with over 100 solid new economic development projects per year,” adds Michael Gifford, president and CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Colorado. But Gifford notes that workforce development continues to be an issue, “although there’s some evidence that the tide is turning on that front."

The construction industry is working more closely with high schools and community colleges to improve technical programs and reboot the skilled trades, Gifford says.

In Utah, contractors have been buoyed by the $1-billion-plus terminal replacement project at the Salt Lake City airport and the Utah Legislature’s recent decision to move the state prison to a site near Interstate 80, west of the airport. “That should be a $500 million to $700 million project,” says AGC of Utah CEO Rich Thorn.

Most regional contractor execs report growth in the commercial sectors. Hospitality and multifamily work is leveling off, while the office, manufacturing and industrial arenas remain strong, says Brian Holland, business development executive with Mortenson in Denver.

Some firm leaders say they are surprised by the influence of market sectors and project location on project fee variances. “It has been beyond normal differences,” says Cory Moore, senior vice president with Big-D Construction in Salt Lake City.

“Stability and flexibility appear to be the themes for 2015,” says Greg Schmidt, president and CEO of Saunders Construction Inc. “The market is strong, and opportunities are abundant. However, manpower and subcontractor availability continue to pose the greatest challenges.”