Well, better late than never, as they say.
In this case, that expression has a double meaning. First, it's a comment on the fact that three of the four Southeast states finally experienced an increase in the value of new construction contracts, according to reports from McGraw-Hill Construction. (Publisher of ENR and ENR Southeast.) Considering the long and seemingly endless downturn that preceded it, that statement is noteworthy enough in its own right.
But just as significant were the increases themselves. New Florida contracts ended 2012 an estimated 21% ahead of 2011, while Georgia and South Carolina recorded year-over-year gains of 55% and 96%, respectively. More on these incredible numbers shortly.
The second meaning of "better late than never"? My apologies for not reporting this information sooner!
So, in the spirit of 'better late than never,' let's go ahead and put these numbers on our collective record. Herein, then, is a state-by-state rundown of 2012's final new contracts information, via McGraw-Hill Construction's Research and Analytics unit.
Florida: Overall, new Florida contracts for future construction tallied approximately $27.5 billion in 2012, a 21% gain over its 2011 total. That sizeable uptick was driven mostly by a reenergized residential market, which jumped 48% last year and delivered just over $14.2 billion in new work. Nonresidential contracts, meanwhile, increased by 5% overall in 2012, with just under $6.4 billion in new projects getting started. Nonbuilding contracts—which include infrastructure projects—fell 2% overall for the year.
Georgia: McGraw-Hill Construction's estimate for new contracts in Georgia ended up at nearly $19.5 billion, or 55% higher than 2011's final total. But that overall number is slightly misleading—and due, almost entirely, to the start of a portion of the multibillion-dollar Plant Vogtle project. As a result, the state's nonbuilding segment, which includes power projects, ended up at nearly $10.2 billion, or about three times the category's value in 2011. Also, the other two construction categories were mixed. Nonresidential fell 20% during 2012, and ended up at just under $4.6 billion for the year. Residential increased by 27% to come in at $4.7 billion for 2012. Taken together, however, these two building markets were collectively down slightly compared to 2011.
North Carolina: The Tar Heel State was the lone downer in 2012—on an overall basis, at least. According to McGraw-Hill, 2012 North Carolina contracts came in at nearly $14.9 billion, or 2% lower than 2011. Both the nonresidential and nonbuilding construction categories fell notably, by 14% and 32%, respectively. Again, the residential market was the bright spot. But its 32% overall gain, to just over $7.7 billion, wasn't enough to push the total state figure into positive territory.
South Carolina: Nuclear construction again fueled this Southeast state's construction numbers surge. The nonresidential market was the single negative for South Carolina, dropping 11% to tally nearly $2.1 billion for 2012. Residential overcame the monetary decline from the nonresidential market by gaining 20% over 2011's figure for a year-end total of roughly $4.1 billion. This time, it was the $8-billion V.C. Summer Nuclear Station project in Jenkinsville, S.C., that boosted the state's nonbuilding sector to a historic high. For 2012, this category reported nearly $9.5 billion in new work, or nearly four times the 2011 total, which had been $2.2 billion.
Indeed, if those two nuclear projects hadn't moved forward during 2012, then McGraw-Hill Construction's estimates for 2012 obviously wouldn't have been as positive. (That said, they did start. And their collective construction contract total of more than $15 billion really does count for something!)
Also, it's arguable that Florida's building markets comeback was the most impressive overall. But, then again, those dramatic percentage gains were mostly the result of a revived residential market. And since housing had been down so significantly, the uptick may have appeared more dramatic than it really was.
What do you think? Was 2012 a turning point? Or are we going to have to see how 2013 shakes out to make a final determination? We hope you share your thoughts!