As Activity Climbs, Labor Pool Tightens For Specialty Firms
This year’s ENR Southwest Top Specialty Contractors Survey includes data from more than 40 Southwest firms, with total revenue topping $1 billion. According to some of the participating firms, growth in today’s marketplace is robust, but finding qualified field workers remains a challenge.
“The market is much better than it was two to three years ago,” says Victor Fuchs, president at Helix Electric. “There are many different opportunities in many sectors. Multi-unit residential, industrial and office space is in demand.”
The K-12 market is especially active in the Las Vegas area, he adds, as the Clark County School District begins to make progress on its 10-year, $4.1-billion construction program. In Reno, Fuchs says the activity spurred by tech giants Apple and Tesla is bearing fruit in other sectors, such as multifamily, schools and hospitals.
The Arizona market is also strong, says Todd Nessler, vice president at Sun Valley Masonry. He says sectors that had been slow in the Southwest, including K-12 and public projects, are beginning to stir. The biggest surprise, Nessler says, is pending activity in office and retail.
“We haven’t seen that in a while,” Nessler says, adding that firms of all sizes are seeking out greater partnerships to deliver these projects. “We are being asked to help out more.”
However, both Nessler and Fuchs say that finding quality field workers is paramount in order to deliver the projects that the market is demanding.
“There is a lot of stuff being proposed and built in the state, but we need to be able to perform it,” Fuchs says, adding that his firm is involved with STEM programs in local high schools in order to attract young talent.
Nessler says Sun Valley Masonry works with the Arizona Masonry Contractors Association for training new workers. The accredited program takes three years and operates from the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa.
But after the lean years, Nessler and other specialty contractors are hoping the current boom times allow them to refresh equipment and staff.
“More than anything, there is general elation that the economy is turning around and that there is work out there with good margins so we can replace equipment and provide better wages for those employees that stuck with us,” Nessler says, adding, “The drive home is easier today than it was a few years ago.”
Many of these issues are reflected in the following pages as part of ENR Southwest’s annual Top Specialty Contractors ranking.