Design, Specialty Firms Adapt as Activity Surges
ENR Northwest’s first survey of design and engineering firms reveals a robust market.
The survey includes more than 40 firms that posted a combined $1.28 billion in revenue for work completed in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. The top 10 firms accounted for $810 million of the total.
Activity in Washington leads the three-state Northwest region with $854.9 million, followed by Oregon with $308.47 million and Alaska with $112.97 million.
Some in the industry say the numbers reflect the region’s hardy recovery from the most recent recession.
“It is as positive as I have seen for a number of years and probably as strong as it was even before the Great Recession,” says Parametrix CEO Jeff Peacock.
Peacock says investments being made in highways and bridges are giving a strong push to the regional construction market.
“The transportation sector is red hot, primarily because of the Washington State Dept. of Transportation passing funding legislation a few years ago and followed by Sound Transit passing a strong program last year,” he says.
Sound Transit is not just promoting ways to move people in the Seattle area; it is also focused on where to house them. In early November, the agency partnered with private development firms to build an affordable high-rise housing project in Seattle.
“The thousands of people moving to Seattle each month makes more urgent the need to address the dwindling stock of affordable housing,” says Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “The proposal by Bellwether Housing and Plymouth Housing Group to create a high-rise affordable development not only takes advantage of the limited real estate available in today’s hot market, but also leverages public and private resources to maximize affordability and density.”
Oregon Leads Job Growth
Growth in the Northwest is not just centered in and around Seattle. According to October data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Oregon is among the states adding the most construction jobs. From October 2016 to October 2017, Oregon added 10,700 construction jobs. Washington was just behind with 10,500 jobs added in the same period.
Peacock says although jobs and newcomers arriving on the scene means the industry is robust, it also increases competition for hiring personnel with high-level skills.
“It is very difficult to attract a quality staff because there is so much work and everyone’s competing for those resources,” Peacock says, adding that Parametrix has hired 100 employees in the past year.
Specialty Contracting Also Surging
Also debuting this year is ENR Northwest Specialty Contractor’s survey. Although less than 20 firms participated this year, specialty contractors are experiencing labor shortages. According to an October 2017 study from the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, high-wage jobs in the state have been steadily increasing, with particular impacts coming from increased wages for workers at specialty contractors.
More information on the strength of the region’s construction market can be found in the ENR Northwest Design and Specialty Contractor surveys, which are presented on the following pages.