Design firms continue to enjoy a wave of prosperity across the Mountain States, driven by steady in-migration and increased funding for public-sector projects. In Utah, the Legislature’s push for better transportation funding is expected to produce more highway design work, and the passage of billions in school bonds last November is boosting the K-12 education market in Colorado.
“We have seen a strong increase in K-12 projects based on the significant bond issues that were passed by voters in the fall of 2016,” says Jack Petersen, president of engineering firm Martin/Martin Inc., Lakewood, Colo.
John Yonushewski, COO of RNL Design in Denver, concurs: “This year we have seen growth in several markets, specifically with our public-sector clients. Both our civic and higher-education markets are experiencing growth regionally and locally.”
Inquiries into new projects and the value of design contracts both increased in April, according to the AIA Architecture Billings Index. “And we continue to see architects and designers moving into Colorado,” says Cathy Rosset, executive vice president and CEO of AIA Colorado. “We also have seen many Colorado firms merging or collaborating with talent outside of Colorado, both to diversify their portfolios and to meet current market demand.”
That demand drives a need for better staffing and retention. “We are constantly trying to increase staffing to meet workload demands,” says EVP Larry Reasch at Horrocks Engineers in Salt Lake City.
The population boom in Denver and Salt Lake City creates more traffic congestion but also more design opportunities. “We are seeing across-the-board growth in the transportation market, not only with the states but also with central federal lands and municipalities,” says Timothy Crockett, senior vice president at HDR.
“The federal facilities market is improving due to funding dollars flowing again for new facilities and renovations after another sluggish year in 2016,” says Tammy Johnson, vice president, Merrick & Co., Denver.
However, Crockett and other leaders remain cautious about inconsistent public-sector funding. “Our greatest concern is the continued health of our economy and the potential effects of a changing government causing uncertainty or an economic slowdown,” says Becky Hawkins, founding partner and CEO with Method Studio Inc.