Despite some market challenges, top firms continued to see a billings boom last year. The top 25 firms on ENR Southeast’s Top Contractors list tallied a combined $41.5 billion last year, up from $33.1 billion in 2022, a 25% increase. The 101 firms that responded to this year’s survey reported combined revenue of $62.99 billion. By comparison, the 106 firms on the 2023 list saw a total of $52.2 billion in revenue.

Average Firm Revenue

Chart by ENR

Manufacturing Success

Walbridge, which rose to No. 2 on the list this year from No. 6 last year, saw revenue soar to $2.94 billion in 2023, nearly double its total in 2022.

The firm continues to bank on the manufacturing and industrial markets. One of the major contributors to the firm’s growth in recent years has been a surge in the battery manufacturing market—and it “doesn’t show signs of slowing down,” says Mike Bedell, general manager and vice president of Walbridge Southeast.

“With new battery technologies occurring and the demand for better batteries, it has brought many of these facilities to the Southeast,” he says.

“Finding the right talent was a challenge with the overheated markets and lack of active talent looking for new oppor-tunities.”
—Mike Bedell, General Manager and Vice President, Walbridge

Like all contractors, Walbridge has been challenged in recent years to maintain growth in the face of limited labor availability. As part of an effort to attract and retain employees, Bedell says the company is working to improve work-life balance for its staff. He says the company’s “process-centered mindset” helps create an environment where employees can be highly productive and keep personal commitments.

Bedell says that strategy paid off in 2023. “In 2022, our revenue increase required us to add team members,” he says. “However, finding the right talent was a challenge with the overheated markets and lack of active talent looking for new opportunities. Internally, we made sure that we had a people-first mentality. We were able to show new team members that Walbridge is focused on successfully supporting our customers [and that] we staff projects without overloading our project crew so team members can achieve work-life integration.”

A strong bench of talent could prove necessary soon because Walbridge expects the manufacturing industry will remain strong over the next several years.

“For Walbridge, our people are our greatest resource, and some of our current team members are nearing retirement age,” Bedell says. “We are focused on developing younger leaders to help them gain the experience needed to provide our legacy customers with the same service they always receive from Walbridge.”

Miller Electric Center

The NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars tapped Haskell for the 18-acre Miller Electric Center, the team’s performance headquarters, completed in time for the 2023 season.
Photo courtesy Haskell

Renewing the Focus on Recruitment

DPR Construction’s billings remained relatively flat in the region last year as some markets improved and others struggled. The firm’s revenue softened to $2.08 billion last year from $2.14 billion in 2022, slipping to No. 5 on this year’s ranking from No. 2 last year. For DPR, activity increased in larger capital projects, notably in Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas, says Nick Ertmer, DPR Southeast regional leader. Data centers and advanced manufacturing facilities, in particular, are booming and remain healthy markets, he says.

“Continued cloud growth, the ongoing growth of AI and the focused effort to bring manufacturing back in the United States are driving a lot of work and competing for a big chunk of the labor pool,” he says.

Health care also remains a resilient market. Ertmer says that with many health care systems back to “slim-but-positive margins,” its customers are making more investments in outpatient care facilities, specialized care centers like cancer hospitals and behavioral health facilities.

DPR’s life sciences and pharmaceutical customers continue to build, especially on large-scale manufacturing. “It is not the bonanza of work of a few years ago, but new therapeutics and cutting-edge research keeps demand high,” he adds.

Firm Revenue

Chart by ENR

Like its competitors, DPR has found that it has had to get more creative with its recruiting efforts. Last year, the firm rolled out benefits for its craft employees that Ertmer says “have helped move the needle for expectations in our industry. We think combining efforts to diversify how we recruit with building psychological safety for folks on project sites will help lead to a more sustainable workforce in the longer term.”

Haskell, which was ranked No. 24 this year, down from No. 20 last year, saw record sales worldwide last year, but the firm’s activity remained fairly flat in the Southeast during that period. In 2023, it recorded $790.7 million in revenue, down from $809.9 million in 2022.

The firm continues to bank on manufacturing, and John Paul Saenz, chief operating officer at Haskell, says water and wastewater markets—serving both municipal and industrial clients—have seen considerable growth in the region. “Southeast U.S. cities continue to be among the fastest-growing metro areas, and aging infrastructure must keep up with demand,” he says. “While our industrial water clients are often motivated by federal regulations, we have seen a genuine commitment to sustainability across manufacturing sectors.”

Saenz says the company’s backlog and sales pipeline suggests that Haskell will continue to see meaningful growth in the years ahead. However, “interest rates and an election year are always a concern, but discerning clients know that essential [capital expenditures] today will be less expensive than tomorrow.”