From wharves to hydroelectric dams to mass-transit systems, heavy infrastructure construction has held its own during the economic downturn and should see even stronger growth through 2017, according to a new market forecast.
The $44.1 billion heavy infrastructure sector has fared better than most of the construction industry since 2007, squeezing out a 0.5% annual growth rate fueled by public investment in water, sewer, transportation, conservation and development services, according to Heavy Infrastructure Construction in the U.S.: Market Research Report, just published by market analyst IBISWorld, of Los Angeles.
|New competitors in the heavy infrastructure industry may find opportunities in smaller-scale, local contracts, especially maintenance and repair work on municipal water facilities.|
The industry currently employs more than 179,000 people in more than 16,000 businesses and experienced “solid growth overall” in the last five years, despite declining revenues in 2009 and 2010, the report says.
More Growth, Tighter Profits
Although profit margins are likely to remain tight, the industry has already seen an uptick in demand this year, and growth is expected to pick up in the next five years.
According to IBISWorld industry analyst Kathleen Ripley, about 32.5% of annual revenue comes from work on transport infrastructure projects such as marine transport, mass transit, and railroad and highway infrastructure.
Other important areas include conservation and development projects, such as land reclamation and soil detoxification; marine infrastructure construction; and recreational infrastructure.
“Looking forward, continued improvements in the U.S. economy, private-sector development, and state and local governments' infrastructure funding will boost industry performance,” Ripley says.
Room to Grow
The industry is fragmented, comprising many small-scale contractors that service narrow regional or niche construction markets. The largest industry firms include some of America's leading construction companies—Bechtel Group, Kiewit Corp., URS Corp., AECOM Technology Corp. and the Walsh Group—but none of them accounts for a significant share of industry revenue.
That means there is room for market newcomers, according to IBISWorld. Although large-scale contractors generally transcend several regional markets, new competitors can generally compete effectively on smaller-scale, local contracts, especially maintenance and repair work on municipal water storage facilities and sewerage treatment plants, the report says.
The report covers a wide range of infrastructure projects, including athletic fields, dams, dikes, docks, drainage projects, golf courses, harbors, parks, reservoirs, canals, hydroelectric plants, subways and other mass transit projects. Establishments include heavy construction general contractors, design builders, engineer-constructors and joint-venture contractors.