City Grill

Guy Rabens

Guy Rabens
Vice President & Orlando Branch Manager

Florida as a whole is a destination state, and Orlando specifically has been cited among the fastest-growing cities for those seeking job opportunities, mild weather, lack of a state income tax and other draws, says Rabens.

That steadily growing population, from around 238,000 in 2010 to an estimated 316,000 in 2023, according to the U.S. Census, has spurred large-scale transportation investment, according to Rabens and Rick Kushner, UES North Florida regional president, in a statement to ENR.

Labor is a perennial issue and constant topic of conversation as UES like other companies continues to struggle to hire and keep an adequate workforce. Right now, UES is feeling the pinch of employment needs amid Florida’s surge of construction projects.

City Scoop Orlando

“All of us in the engineering fields need to do a better job at recruitment, training and retention, and that starts by educating young people of the career and advancement to be had at large-scale companies like UES,” Rabens says.

Among the area’s most significant transportation projects are the Florida Dept. of Transportation’s (FDOT) I-4 Ultimate project. Covering 21 miles of interstate, it’s the largest highway infrastructure project in the state, he notes.

Additionally, Rabens says, the Brightline high-speed rail connecting Orlando with major metropolises has garnered attention for its potential to transform transportation in the region. Brightline, which was ENR Southeast’s 2016 Owner of the Year, continues to develop rail infrastructure in the area, including its recently completed station at Orlando International Airport.

Transportation, residential, restaurants and hospitality top the list of most active markets in Orlando, according to Rabens and Kushner, and after seeing the industry slow toward the end of 2022, UES has seen a significant increase from one year ago across the major markets in which it operates.

The firm’s recent projects include the $2.8-billion Orlando International Airport’s Terminal C, ENR Southeast’s 2023 Project of the Year, for which UES performed structural site inspections. Along with I-4 Ultimate and the design and geotechnical work for passenger rail service Brightline, UES is also completing geotechnical and construction sitework for Universal’s Epic Universe, a new park set to open in 2025.

“New construction ... is vital to our local economy and necessary to accommodate the influx of people moving into the region.”
—Guy Rabens, Vice President & Orlando Branch Manager, UES

Going forward, Rabens and Kushner see continued growth for Orlando in the next few years as well as for other larger metropolitan areas. As people continue to move to the city, it’s not just interstate or high-speed rail projects that result, but residential and commercial projects.

UES, headquartered in Orlando, foresees an ongoing progression in these sectors as Central Florida remains a hot spot for residential growth and tourism with major attractions like Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, SeaWorld and more.

“New construction in residential and commercial developments is vital to our local economy and necessary to accommodate the influx of people moving into the region,” says Rabens, noting that UES anticipated continued movement along those lines through the rest of the year and beyond.

Dodge data shows residential starts in Orlando are expected to jump by more than $1 billion between 2024 and 2025, with the gain split roughly evenly between single-family and multifamily starts.

Federal and state infrastructure funding is keeping transportation projects a high priority for UES for at least the next five years, while the firm notes that residential projects have been picking up steam in the last six months and residential builders are again starting to explore investment deals. Kushner and Rabens expect that to keep up, while UES has been turning its attention to new projects in the energy sector, including solar development.

“We hope to bring our environmental preservation solutions to more projects in Orlando to aid in sustainability efforts,” Rabens says.

The firm has also been expanding its ecological service line to support clients as they evaluate unoccupied lands and associated ecological assessments with the aim of providing a full-scope, “trees to keys” consulting service.