Regional subcontractors are navigating the highs and lows of a busy post-pandemic construction environment, growing exponentially while battling continuing labor and supply chain challenges that call for creativity alongside cautious optimism.

Total revenue for the top 23 firms in this year's ENR Mountain States ranking shows a steady increase over the last couple of years, following quick growth in 2020. The average revenue reported by these top firms increased from $120 million in 2020 to $127 million in 2022.

Eric Laub, executive vice president of Cache Valley Electric (CVE), ranked second on this year’s list of specialty contractors, says regional project starts show no sign of slowing. “The market is anticipating multiple large projects in the next 12 months, many anticipated to begin soon,” he says. CVE reported $486 million in revenue for 2022.

Firm Revenue

With the mission critical sector rapidly expanding and the electrical grid changing quickly alongside a push for renewables, “the power distribution and delivery segment is growing exponentially to facilitate these changes,” Laub adds.

“We are optimistic but conservative,” says Marc Paolicelli, chief customer officer and senior vice president at RK Industries. RK is ranked third on the 2023 Mountain States list with reported revenue of $474 million.

“The regions where we perform construction work have consistently stayed above the nationwide normal, and we have been flexible with project selection to meet the needs of the markets we serve,” he says.

RK is experiencing significant demand for projects in data technology, aviation, life sciences, health care, multifamily, manufacturing and the federal marketplace, while the private development sector “is slowing slightly,” Paolicelli says.

Average Firm Revenue

Managing Challenges

While work is plentiful, the region’s contractors agree that labor is not. “Risk-related concerns always need to be observed and planned for in this industry,” says Paolicelli. “The issues we see are similar to what we have seen over the past few years: There is still a shortage of manpower despite what we, and many other companies, are doing in the workforce development arena.”

“Contractors will not only struggle to find qualified labor quickly but also to retain labor on projects without incentive pay.”
—Eric Laub, EVP, Cache Valley Electric

“Incentive pay is now commonplace for customers and projects that can afford it,” Laub adds. “Contractors will not only struggle to find qualified labor quickly but also to retain labor on projects without incentive pay.”

The supply chain continues to be challenging to manage as well “based on the demand of the growing industries and the rate at which they request products,” Paolicelli says. At the same time, the “developer-driven marketplace is being very conservative due to the financial market, and long-term planning has been more of the norm versus immediate construction starts,” he says.

Central 70

Sturgeon Electric worked with Kiewit Meridiam Partners on the $1.3-billion Central 70, the largest transportation project in Colorado's history.
Photo courtesy of Sturgeon Electric Co.

Key Projects Delivered

A number of landmark projects kept regional firms busy in 2022. CVE completed the massive Utah State Correctional Facility (USCF), a Layton-Okland joint venture, as well as the skyline-defining Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City, led by Hensel Phelps.

The electrical contractor says the size and scope of the 1.3-million-sq-ft USCF gave it the feel of a small city. CVE’s work began in 2017, assisting with the project’s design phase, and their preconstruction teams spent more than 40,000 hours on the project, working on both virtual design and shop prefabrication.

CVE crews performed electrical construction, signal and utility, multimedia and teledata work. By the time their scope was complete, they had worked more than 460,000 hours and installed 350 light poles, more than 4,000 TV drops, almost 2 million ft of conduit and nearly half a million ft of wire.

RK completed an $81-million Concourse C-East Expansion at Denver International Airport last year. The contractor’s largest project to break ground was the Frontgate Condominium and Townhouses in Avon, Colo., with their contract valued at $23.2 million.

The massive Central 70 project helped Sturgeon Electric hold onto the top spot on this year’s ranking, with the contractor closing out 2022 with $494 million in reported revenue. The $1.3-billion project widened 13 miles of roadway and added express lanes in certain areas in each direction. The project also removed an original 57-year-old viaduct that supported the existing highway between Brighton and Colorado boulevards, lowering the interstate below grade and rejoining two communities—divided for six decades—by means of a four-acre public park. Sturgeon’s scope included traffic signals, roadway lighting, intelligent transportation systems and electrical for the park, making it the largest single project CDOT has ever awarded. The project was broken into three segments of construction run by three different construction managers.