Specialty contractors in the New York and New England regions, like those elsewhere, have been affected by the negative impacts of COVID-19. But bright spots for individual firms show how construction companies are slowly overcoming the pandemic.

In the New York region, comprising New York and New Jersey, the top 10 firms reported total regional revenue of $1.95 billion, a drop of 8% from the $2.12 billion posted by the 10 top firms last year. Nonetheless, many companies high on the list posted revenue increases. 

E-J Electric Installation Co., which is also ENR New York’s Specialty Contractor of the Year, reported revenue of $650 million in 2020, rising 2% from $637.10 million the prior year, and held onto the No. 1 spot.

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ENR New York 2021 Top Specialty Contractors
ENR New England 2021 Top Specialty Contractors

Staying at No. 2 on the New York list is Five Star Electric Corp., which posted regional revenue of $448.23 million, up 26% from $357.01 million a year ago. And Petillo Inc. rose from fifth to third place, posting a revenue gain of 34%, to $208.28 million from $155.14 million.

Others in the top 10 also fared well. Ruttura & Sons Construction Co. reported regional revenue of $119.41 million, an 11% increase from $107.28 million, boosting its ranking to sixth place compared with ninth last year. International Asbestos Removal jumped to No. 10 from No. 14 last year, with revenue growing 14% to $48.49 million from $43.52 million.

New England’s top specialty contractors showed a similar trend of individual bright spots despite an overall downturn.

The 17 firms on this year’s New England ranking reported $1.4 billion in combined 2020 revenue, down 26% from the $1.9 billion the top 17 participating firms logged on last year’s survey. States in the region are Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Wayne J. Griffin Electric Inc. tops this year’s list with $263.77 million in regional revenue. The Holliston, Mass.-based firm—which ranked No. 1 two years ago—finished second on last year’s list with $242.10 million in revenue.

With a 16% revenue increase, BOND Civil & Utility Construction Inc. ranked second with $195.58 million. The Medford, Mass-based firm finished fifth last year with $168.60 million in revenue. E.M. Duggan Inc.—based in Canton, Mass.—was ranked No. 3 for the second straight year with $185 million in revenue despite its regional revenue being down nearly 21% from the $233.50 million it reported last year.

ENR spoke to some of the specialty contractors mentioned above to get their thoughts on how the construction industry fared in the New York and New England regions and what they think the future holds. Their answers have been edited for clarity.

W.L. French Excavating Corp

W.L. French Excavating Corp., which was ranked No. 4 on the New England Top Specialty Contractors list, recently started work on the CityPoint project in Waltham, Mass.
Photo by Windwood Productions, courtesy of W.L. French Excavating Corp.

Do you believe the COVID-19 Delta variant will impact construction this fall? If so, how is your firm preparing for it?

Tim Hunt, director of environmental, health and safety, W.L. French Excavating Corp.: I do not believe the Delta variant will impact construction to the same extent as COVID hit last year.  We are expecting minor disruptions due to isolated cases of COVID, but nothing significant in scale. Individual jobsites may revert to the COVID protocols that we saw last year in terms of PPE, and so we restocked on masks, hand sanitizer and gloves so that we wouldn’t face a supply chain issue.  We continue to encourage all of our employees to get the vaccine.  

Tommy Ruttura, president, Ruttura & Sons Construction: We already had a lot of co-workers get COVID, and I don’t expect it will be as bad.

Karen Grando, CEO, International Asbestos Removal: We are seeing additional restrictions on the jobsites and vaccinations being required. We’re ensuring all personnel are vaccinated to continue their employment.

How do you think the Biden administration will impact construction in the New York and New England regions?

Ruttura: It will probably help the industry. He will spend more money.

Grando: There will be increased funding for infrastructure.

Which sectors have offered the biggest opportunities in the New England and New York regions?

Hunt: We have seen increased opportunities in multifamily residential, life sciences and biopharma, and e-commerce distribution.

Ruttura: For us, it’s the warehousing sector. 

Grando: The transportation, pharma and medical, and education sectors have become big opportunities.

Which sectors have cooled down in the regions?

Hunt: Several have cooled down including commercial and retail, private university projects and institutional developments.

Ruttura: Retail, hospitals and education have slowed down.

Grando: Commercial office space retrofits have cooled. There are still a lot of people working from home.

What changes or innovations helped you boost productivity or other metrics?

Ruttura: GPS, by far.

Grando: We’ve been using new software options for gathering payroll information remotely from jobsites and we’re having more team meetings to improve communication and scheduling issues. We’ve also added a company safety director and a human resources coordinator.

Where do you see the construction industry headed in the next year?

Hunt: Commercial and retail markets will continue flat, or even dip again. Private institutional projects will see an uptick, with multifamily residential and life sciences and biopharma continuing to be a robust market.

Ruttura: Airport work will continue as will the aging of our industry leaders, with 88 million baby boomers retiring. We are getting ready for it. 

Grando: We expect to see continued growth.