Liebherr displays two foundation rigs flanked by cranes at CONEXPO on March 22.
For those looking for economic good news at this week's CONEXPO-CON/AGG show in Las Vegas, vendors and construction attendees alike are reporting that their order books for 2011 are already hitting sales figures for the entire year of 2010.
"The forecasts for 2011 are much more positive because of upcoming commercial infrastructure projects," said Gerhard Frainer, managing director of Liebherr-Werk Nenzing GmbH, the Austrian subsidiary of Liebherr Group that builds large crawler cranes and foundation equipment.
Speaking at March 22, the first day of CONEXPO, Frainer added that orders for its deep foundation rigs are increasing in North America, a sign that more construction is going in the ground.
"In general, we see an increase in demand," he said.
Though it is not Liebherr's best-known product line—the company holds just a 4% to 5% global marketshare in a category that builds about 1,000 units a year—two foundation rigs were on display front-and-center at the company's massive booth. It plans to grow its share to 10%, or double its current position, in five years.
Likewise, attendee Stephen L. Raynor, owner of Maple Hill, N.C.-based Seashore Builders Inc., said his company has received contracts through March 2011 with values already matching up with full-year 2010.
Times have been tight for vertical builders like Seashore, which mainly builds government buildings up to five stories tall. The building sector typically grows stronger at the back end of construction's cyclical activity.
"We're the last ones to get hurt and the last ones to recover," said Nic Lanier, the company's construction manager.
Since 2009, Seashore has had to reduce its workforce from nearly 100 to about 40. But Raynor said he plans to add about 10 to 15 more people this year as the firm inks more contracts for public and private building jobs.
Why did Raynor come to CONEXPO? Primarily to talk with construction software vendors, he said. But he still took time to "look at and admire" the big iron on display.