This article originally appeared in the Birmingham Business Journal.
Despite the pandemic, construction leaders said they finished out 2020 strong with major projects in higher education, multifamily and light industrial.
Turner Burton, president at Hoar Construction, said he is grateful for the resiliency of his team in the face of dealing with new regulations due to Covid-19.
“It became more about dealing with the change than building the buildings, but our guys were able to do both,” Burton said.
There was a drop in activity at the end of the year but not as drastic as in other parts of the country.
“The fourth quarter brought somewhat of a slowdown as some pipeline projects were pushed into 2021 due to the inevitable lag caused by the pandemic and overall uncertainty due to economic and political circumstances,” said Mary Wyatt Crenshaw, CEO of Wyatt General Contractor.
Since then, the industry has settled down with more opportunities as contractors build a robust backlog and mount aggressive bids against a larger pool of contractors, Crenshaw said.
Burton said the uptick in potential multifamily and distribution projects also bodes well for the city.
“What we need more than anything in Birmingham is job growth, and it’s a great way to provide it,” he said.
Delays and price hikes in the supply chain, however, pose future hurdles.
“What we’ve seen as far as the impacts of 2020 and the Covid challenges, we’re really starting to feel that more now,” Burton said.
Last year it was lumber. This year it’s steel. The price of steel more than doubled since the end of the third quarter, generating a push to make the numbers work for new projects. The hope is those prices will come back down as manufacturing ramps up, he said.
Overall, Burton said it’s a good time for the market.
“I can’t think of a time in Birmingham where we’ve had this much work going on,” he said. “Everywhere you go, you can see a tower crane, and it hasn’t felt like that in a long time.”
Looking ahead, Crenshaw believes the industry will hold steady with mixed-use projects coming online as well as the institutional work coming from the $1.25 billion bond issue for Alabama schools, colleges and universities.
“I also believe 2021 will bring a committed focus to working with small and diverse construction firms who are looking to grow and make positive impacts in our city,” she said. “No matter the size of a construction company, whether they are doing $1 million or $100 million in volume, we can support other companies looking to grow and excel in business.”