During the past few years of the construction market downturn, public-sector owners have largely been the most active in terms of moving forward on major projects. However, over the last couple of years, privately funded industrial construction has been one of the region's more notable markets.
While the term "industrial" encompasses power and energy projects--themselves a significant component of the current construction market--what I'm thinking of are the contracts powered by private-sector manufacturers and technology firms.
North Carolina, in particular, has seen a significant slew of international companies investing in new industrial facilities. Facebook and Apple chose the state for new data centers, while construction equipment giant Caterpillar is also building new facilities and expanding existing ones.
South Carolina--home of Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner Final Assembly building--is also seeing some of these kinds of projects move forward. In Florence, S.C., for instance, M.B. Kahn Construction is building a battery recycling plant for Johnson Controls. And in Laurens County, Walbridge Southeast is constructing a manufacturing facility for ZF Transmissions.
Of course, the construction of new industrial plants means new manufacturing sector jobs, which, according to a February report, grew by about 50,000 in January--or nearly one-fifth of all job growth during the month. In a related note, President Obama seized upon the positive manufacturing job growth while at a Master Lock plant in Wisconsin recently, where he was citing the company's accelerated employment as an example of "insourcing."
Whether "insourcing" is a real trend and whether it will continue remains to be seen. On the other hand, the construction of data centers--an example of the term "mission critical facilities"--appears to be a trend that will be here for awhile, according to a February 2012 report by Minneapolis-based Mortenson Construction entitled "Mission Critical Industry and Construction Trends." (Readers can download the report here.)
According to a statement announcing the report: "The expansion of mission critical facilities shows no signs of slowing and is being fueled by greater digitization of information and growth in cloud-based services and new devices." In addition to the tech firms driving some of the higher-profile data center projects, the Mortenson report indicates that health-care companies also are in need of such facilities.
So, what do you think? Do you expect to see more industrial projects come to life in the Southeast during 2012 and beyond? Is your firm chasing or even building some of these facilities? Let us hear your thoughts.