Specialty contractors are seeing a market steering back toward normal following the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic, and while inflation and other storm clouds linger, 2022 was a sunny year in the Southeast for most. For example, William R. Nash Mechanical Contractors had its best year ever, growing revenue by more than 28%, even if net profit didn’t quite follow suit, says Russell Nash, division president. He sees a similar forecast for 2023 as opportunities file into the firm’s preconstruction department at a consistent pace. “Unless something unforeseen takes place, we have the backlog to carry us through the entire upcoming year,” he says.

The firms participating in the 2023 ENR Southeast Top Specialty Contractors ranking reported more than $7 billion in revenue for 2022 in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Puerto Rico. The 25 firms at the top of this year’s ranking brought in a total $5.28 billion in revenue in the Southeast in 2022, a roughly 7.75% increase from the $4.9 billion the top 25 reported last year.

“We are seeing many projects that were either postponed or shelved coming back to life as ownership groups are looking to get their projects funded and underway,” Nash says, adding that the limited bandwidth among specialty contractors means resources are spread among current projects. “The sooner owners get projects funded and off the ground, it helps solidify their place in line with us.”

William R. Nash reported $105.32 million in revenue for 2022, up from $79.65 million in 2021, with the firm moving from No. 26 to No. 27 in the ranking.

For Tampa-based KHS&S, 2022 marked a slow but successful comeback from the COVID-19 era. Michael Cannon, the firm's chairman and chief executive, says the wall and ceiling contractor saw an increase in projects thanks to loosened restrictions and regained confidence in travel. That has allowed the firm to increase its projects in the hospitality, gaming, amusement park and airport markets. KHS&S has a long history in the amusement park, gaming and transportation sectors that netted it standout projects in those markets, such as ongoing work at Tampa International Airport and the continued work on major new attractions for Disney and an expansion at Universal Studios.

KHS&S, last year's ENR Southeast Specialty Contractor of the Year, saw revenue decline from $94.2 million in 2021 to $79.32 million in 2022. It also fell in the ranking from No. 25 to No. 33.

For Georgia-based Ace Electric, opportunities remained very strong in 2022, during which time the firm saw a 10% increase in revenue. With large corporations seemingly unfazed by rising interest rates or the increasing demand for skilled labor, big jobs keep popping up, according to Rob Stalvey, Ace’s president of corporate support.

He says mission critical work—specifically data centers—remains active, as does work on distribution, cold storage, manufacturing and K-12 projects.

“The current level of activity remains robust—as in previous years,” Stalvey says. “As far as we can tell, the construction spend and activity remains strong.”

Firm Revenue

While there may be fewer jobs in certain sectors, others are making up for the dip, he adds, something Ace is overcoming with diverse geography and scope of work.

Ace lands at No. 15 in this year’s and last year’s rankings, with $159.44 million in revenue in 2022 compared with $122.78 million in 2021.

One sector that’s remained strong in 2022 and through the COVID-19 years is hospital construction, where KHS&S has consistently stayed busy. “Year after year, the health care market has remained strong,” Cannon says, noting KHS&S projects like Tampa General’s Rehabilitation Hospital, Joe DiMaggio’s Children’s Hospital and expansion projects in Orlando and Panama City and Aventura, Fla. “We don’t see that changing given growth rates in the Southeast, especially in Florida.”

Overall, activity is stable in KHS&S’s specialty niche, he says, and while 2022 was somewhat better than the previous two years, the firm projects 2023 to be significantly stronger. Looking toward 2024 and 2025, Cannon sees hospitality, amusement park and airport construction continuing to gain momentum as more people travel. Health care—the firm’s specialty since its founding in 1965—is the most active sector for William R. Nash, especially in Florida.

Finding and retaining quality management staff, too, will continue to be an issue going forward, according to Nash, who says one thing impacting that effort is high cost of living that makes it more difficult to attract top talent and has led to significant increases in recruitment fees and other costs associated with finding that talent. And for the most part, KHS&S is seeing the supply chain challenges of the last few years beginning to recede and materials prices stabilizing, even if at a higher level, as the business environment returns to normal.

But rising interest rates are looming on the horizon, set to impact projects for the foreseeable future, says Cannon, something he doesn’t see changing until inflation rates drop and stay stable for an extended period of time.

Average Firm Revenue

About the Ranking

ENR Southeast’s Top Specialty Contractors ranking lists firms’ 2022 revenue figures earned from projects located in the Southeast. Fifty firms are ranked in this issue, but all 62 that responded will be listed online. For all 62 firms, reported revenue was $7.02 billion, compared with the $5.89 billion reported by all 48 firms in the 2022 rankings. Georgia overtakes Florida as the top state for specialty contracting revenue, with $2.37 billion in 2022, compared with Florida's $1.84 billion. They were followed by North Carolina, with $1.08 billion, South Carolina with $575.7 million and Alabama and Tennessee with $608.72 million and $531.5 million, respectively. Firms reported $9.92 million in Puerto Rico in 2022. In addition to revenue, the main ranking includes information about each firm, such as top markets and largest recent contracts. Firms are also ranked by state revenue.