Essentials for Survival in 2010

Yesterday, I sat in on the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) teleconference announcing the results of the Nationwide Construction Employment and Business Forecast, which was based on the responses of 700 contractors in 29 states. You can read about the survey findings in "Stimulus is Silver Lining in Dismal AGC Construction Report" in the news section at More complete survey data can also be found at While the presentation was enlightening (and depressing), of equal interest were the responses from several contractors who participated in a Q&A session that followed. I'll share more details of their comments in my editorial column in the February issue of Equipment Today. In the meantime, here are some general points these contractors believe are essential to their - and your - survival in 2010: Additional stimulus is desperately needed: The construction industry declined $137 billion in 2009, and construction unemployment is now at 22.7% - a level similar to the rate during the Great Depression.  Stimulus funds issued in 2009 didn't come close to offsetting the losses. More is needed if the construction economy is ever going to get back on its feet. You need to look outside traditional types of construction: Renewable energy, such as wind farms, is hot and likely to get hotter. Military base realignment - which encompasses underground, road and building construction - has also proven a boon in various parts of the country. Look beyond the typical types of projects to see what else may be out there.   We need to get projects in the works more quickly: Design/build has proven a boon to getting projects into the pipeline faster. It expedites construction, plus stimulates "innovation" among contractors. Additional methods need to be explored to speed dollars into the market. Speaking of "innovation" - it may be the key to keeping you in business: Bidding below the cost of work is not a sustainable business model. You need to figure out how you can: improve your services by giving owners more value; enter markets that you may not have been in previously; and protect the "turf" you already have against new competitors coming in.