Pockets of Prosperity...& Concern

Depending on where I call and what type of contractor I talk with discussions range from dismal all the way through ecstatic. On the wrong end of that spectrum is a multi-service contractor I spoke with a couple weeks ago. After losing a major long-time, multi-property account to a ridiculously low bidder the contractor was forced to lay off a third of his workforce in hopes of meeting payroll for the remaining 25-plus. The good news for him is he has more than $750,000 in outstanding receivables -- but there’s no telling when any of it will come in. And of course the problem is compounded by tight credit almost everyone is experiencing. Despite a great credit rating and long-standing relationship with the his bankers he can't get the short-term loan to make payroll.“I have the work and we can do the work, but we can’t get people to pay promptly,” he says. “I don’t think any of these companies will not pay, but when they’ll pay…who knows?” Here's hoping those dollars come in quickly so he can hire those workers back soon. On the other end of the spectrum are three contractors (two stripers, one paver) in three different parts of the country. I had tried to reach two of them in their offices with no luck, but eventually reached all three in just the place they really want to be at this time of the year. "I'm standing in the middle of a parking lot," one of them told me, explaining why I couldn't reach him in the office. "We're very busy." Still another contractor is splitting the difference between those two extremes. A paving and sealcoating contractor (who also sells sealer), he says business is "okay" but the phone isn't ringing. "We're getting enough work to keep the crew busy but not much more than that," he says, explaining most of his jobs are less than 8000 sq. ft. "We'd really like to get a big project or two before the end of the year." He did add, however, that he is optimistic about getting one or more big jobs. "We did an awful lot of bidding early in the year and a lot of those bids haven't been let yet. We have been talking with some people who say 'the end of the season is coming and I guess I'd better pull the trigger on this work.'