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Southeast Top Starts Ranking Reveals Stop-and-Go Recovery

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Technically speaking, 2013 proved to be a downer for the Southeast's collective construction industry. According to McGraw Hill Construction's final 2013 state figures, the Southeast region of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas generated nearly $70.6 billion in new contracts during the past year. While that number sounds significant, it's decidedly lower than the 2012 grand total of nearly $80.3 billion. However, while numbers don't lie, sometimes they don't tell the whole story.

Image courtesy of Herzog and De Meuron
This year's Top Starts ranking included several South Florida multifamily projects, such as the Jade Signature condominium in Sunny Isles Beach.
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McGraw Hill Construction's use of total contract costs, combined with its inclusion of two nuclear projects led to a dramatically inflated total for 2012. As a result, it was all but certain that 2013 would show a considerable decrease in total contracting volume.

And it did, with Georgia and South Carolina's related infrastructure category totals nosediving last year. For example, South Carolina's nonbuilding sector fell 93% in 2013, with its latest annual total of $680.7 million falling roughly $8.9 billion shy of the year prior.

Even accounting for those unusually volatile numbers, 2013 still proved to be a bumpy year. A look at the numbers for the region's biggest state, Florida, reveals the uneven nature of the recovery.

According to McGraw Hill, Florida's contracting market posted the most positive overall numbers for the Southeast, growing 13% in 2013 for an estimated total of $32.2 billion in new work. Even so, nonresidential contracts were flat, and the Sunshine State's nonbuilding market fell 25%. A 38% increase in housing contracts was solely responsible for Florida's overall gain.

Conversely, Georgia's 2013 numbers may have been more positive than the state's 24% overall decline might indicate. Residential contracts gained 42% over 2012, delivering more than $6.7 billion in new work. And the state's nonresidential construction category grew by 18%, for about $5.6 billion in new contracts—by far the largest gain for this sector in any Southeast state.

Arguably, then, North Carolina—which lacked any atypical trends, such as nuclear plants or a condo boom—might be most reflective of the market's health. Unfortunately, the result was zero growth, as its 2013 total of $15.66 billion in new contracts came in just shy of 2012's $15.68 billion. For more about the region's 2013 figures, visit southeast.construction.com.

The Ranking

By its nature, ENR Southeast's Top Starts feature—which ranks the largest contracts to start construction in the past year—provides a market snapshot. As such, this year's list reflects that downturn trend. Collectively, the value of the 25 projects included here equals roughly $7.4 billion, or about $9.5 billion lower than a year ago. Not coincidentally, last year's Top Starts ranking included approximately $10 billion worth of energy projects, while this year's ranking has none.

The Top Starts ranking includes the Southeast's 25 largest projects—by total project cost—that started construction during 2013. ENR Southeast used two primary sources to create this year's list: a survey form and McGraw-Hill Construction's Dodge database. Editors also researched and verified project start information from other sources, such as transportation agency websites, news reports and articles previously published by ENR and ENR Southeast.

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