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2019 FMI Overview,
Featuring FMI’s Latest Forecast,
the 2019 U.S. & Canada Construction Outlooks

 

Introduction from FMI CEO Chris Daum

 

FMI Managing Director Jay Bowman Discusses the Construction Forecast

Executive Overview

 

Keep Calm, Stay Focused and Get Ahead of the Next Downturn

2018 marked another strong and dynamic year for the North American built environment, with total U.S. engineering and construction (E&C) spending growth expected to finish at 5%, the same as in the previous year.

By Chris Daum, CEO, FMI

Through 2019, FMI expects E&C spending to continue to grow at an anticipated 3% annual rate, with mostly positive, albeit moderately decelerating, growth rates across the residential, nonresidential buildings and nonresidential structures market sectors.

The Architecture Billings Index—which typically leads relevant construction activity by nine to 12 months—paints a similarly upbeat picture. According to latest readings, contractors will continue to have robust backlogs during the coming months.

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) will likely remain strong this year as well, following an active year in 2018 across the North American built environment, which was shaped by over 400 closed or announced transactions, a 33% increase from the number of deals closed or announced in 2017. Deal flow in 2018 was primarily defined by midsized or smaller strategic deals, as opposed to larger $1 billion deals we have seen in recent years, and was spread across all subsectors of the broader built environment.

Several factors contributed to this active market, including activity from private equity firms (both as buyers and sellers), public companies looking for growth (including newly public companies), and significant interest in specific sectors like building and energy services. It should be noted, however, that a major driver of M&A activity in the industry also related (and still does) to the demographic need for owner succession due to retiring baby boomers.

In 2019 and beyond, we expect to see buyers be more cautious with their acquisition activity. Not that the activity will cease, but firms will probably be more selective about where they place their bets given where we are in the current economic cycle, and because many buyers are still integrating the companies they acquired during the past few years.

Along with traditional mergers and acquisitions, we’re also seeing increased interest in employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) as an alternative exit strategy to selling an E&C business. This change in sentiment tells us that, as more owners evaluate their options, the tax-advantaged value creation afforded by the ESOP can be a great choice for many E&C companies grappling with ownership transitions.

And then there’s all the buzz around construction tech startups that are set to transform the E&C space. Over the last decade, more than $10 billion has been allocated to funding construction technology. Most of that money came through early-stage venture capital deals. Brick & Mortar Ventures, for example, was among the first venture investors focused exclusively on early stage A/E/C technology firms and has made over 22 investments to date.

As construction technology companies mature, larger acquirers are stepping in and making full (or at least majority) acquisitions. These acquisitions are being driven by both strategic and financial (e.g., private equity) acquirers. For example, strategic acquirers are making significant construction tech investments for various key reasons, including talent acquisition. Leveraging acquisitions to acquire and build talent can be a very efficient alternative to internal hiring and development practices. Trimble’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Viewpoint, for instance, gave the former a leading construction management solution and a team of over 700 experienced individuals capable of driving future business growth.

While many of today’s construction tech startups may be in growth mode right now, E&C is an unpredictable sector. So, where venture capital firms may be involved with it during the “boom” times, the real test comes when E&C startups must maintain growth during a downturn. That’s where the rubber meets the road, and it’s a scenario we could all be experiencing sometime in the next 12 to 24 months.

 


 

Preparing for the Next Downturn: Lessons Learned From the Great Recession

The E&C industry has endured seismic shifts during the past decade and is still going strong in 2019.

Rumblings about a recession on the horizon are starting to make company leaders a bit nervous, but many are just too busy keeping up with current work to start thinking about contingency planning. In fact, the constrained labor situation, coupled with material increases, compressed project schedules and ongoing margin compression, are all creating more risk for E&C firms today—and right when we find ourselves at the top of the market. As we like to say, “Contractors don’t starve to death; they die from gluttony. They get too much work, too fast, with inadequate resources, and then they get into financial trouble and run out of cash.”

Now is the time to get proactive with conversations and planning around lessons learned from the last downturn and “recession-proof” your company. While the last recession was historic in scale and duration, the next downturn will likely look very different. Still, through good preparation, companies can take the lessons they (or their predecessors) learned from the last recession and use them to avoid repeating any costly mistakes. Following are seven key lessons from FMI’s senior consultants and directors that all E&C firms can learn from:

  1. Don’t wait too long to make any hard decisions you have been deferring. This might be a marginal performer you’ve been keeping, an underperforming office or division that has been limping along, or anything else you’ve been unwilling to pull the trigger on. During the last recession, these types of issues plagued E&C companies for far too long. Leadership that is slow to react and respond can make or break a company.
  2. Find your own sweet spot and don’t just follow the herd. Be picky and don’t chase every project or every owner. Know what your core competencies are and with whom you like to work. Also, don’t just be a market follower, especially if you are trailing behind others in markets where your company has little or no expertise. If you’re following the crowd, you’re going to be a year behind the latest movements.
  3. Work on the new, envisioned future and set the strategy for post-recession success. Be clear on organizational purpose and values during this exercise; they will be tested. Many of today’s leaders are in constant firefighting mode and not focusing on the big picture. Living in a reactive mode and not being proactive and taking charge of shaping your own destiny and future can become your biggest detriments.
  4. Get a grasp on “incremental economics” like revenue, margin and overhead. A good business doesn’t turn on its head in a bad market. A competitive landscape has transformed standard estimating procedures into a game of marksmanship. Understanding the total costs for each project and how these costs break down is the first step in knowing where and how you can improve profit margins. Too many E&C firms lack true knowledge of what it costs them to both do and pursue work. In a recession, the ability to produce as inexpensively as possible is the key differentiator. If you know your costs for any specific scope of work (i.e., historical costs), you can proactively reduce or raise your prices according to market conditions.
  5. Maintain a healthy balance sheet (i.e., cash and working capital) in the context of growth plans.
    Conduct a risk analysis on all existing projects slated to complete more than six months out. Identify high-risk projects and how each will be staffed to take to project completion. Leverage and utilize a multiskilled workforce: In-house, self-perform capabilities can mean a difference on margins, time and manpower, while all-around adaptability can make a firm indispensable to satisfied clients.
  6. Get positioned in your market (and in the heads of your clients)—early. The game of selling work and interacting with clients has changed quite a bit for many E&C companies. These days, early plans allow for the most flexibility. Look particularly close at segments that are likely to do well in a recession. Are you winning the size and type of work that will allow you to quickly expand in the event of a market change? Do you truly understand your clients’ mindsets? Do you get their way of thinking and what’s important to them? While client relationships won’t guarantee you work, they do still matter and are critical when the market slows down.
  7. Get more feet on the street. It’s time to give sellers/doers the skills they need to be confident calling on customers. Have them build a list of contacts that they want to keep in touch with. Then, create a training program to educate your people on “how to behave in a recession”—estimators with project selection, field managers with scope management, PMs with cash management, etc. Client interaction across all company levels will increase your presence with clients, give you an inside track and improve
    collaboration among future leaders.

Back in the Great Recession, contractors had large backlogs in the fall of 2008, and many thought they would weather the storm. In reality, almost all that backlog disappeared relatively quickly. First, it was deferred, then it was postponed, and then poof—it was gone. It may not happen that way next time, but history could repeat itself. Much work today is being delayed, with schedules constantly being slowed—perhaps this is a precursor to the next slowdown. This is a red flag to keep a close eye on as we move further into 2019.

 


 

Back to the Basics

Instead of grasping for straws once the downturn hits, FMI tells companies to go back to the basics and focus on building the best organization possible now. Make sure you have:

  • Great disciplines around communication, feedback and planning.
  • Great people who can embrace the organization, negotiate well and understand what the owners want.
  • The right support structures and systems.
  • The right financial mechanisms in place.
  • The right technology to support your company’s vision and strategies.

As the industry continues to climb toward the market peak, this is also the time to unabashedly build out your equity base. That way, when you transition into the next downturn, you’ll have the cash resources to do whatever it takes to survive (even if that’s “no work” because the money’s not there). Skip this step and you’ll wind up overextended going into the slowdown; that’s where companies historically run into trouble.

Here are six more “back to the basics” strategies that E&C companies can use to offset the negative impacts of the next recession:

  1. Extrapolate clarity of purpose in your values and the goals/milestones that are in front of you.
  2. Use data analysis to evaluate these goals against the current context of what’s going on in your business.
  3. Be an agile and flexible leader.
  4. Explore the market itself, your peers and other benchmark industries and business builders that you feel that you can learn from.
  5. Be intellectually curious and use your mental flexibility and intuition to come up with new, creative business ideas.
  6. Have a plan in place for your key talent. What people do you need to have on your team 10 years from now in order to sustain the business for the next 30 years?

Right now, the market is still relatively good; you still have options. All E&C firms should be picking opportunities that allow them to succeed, or to at least know that they have a trail of work in place as they head for the next downturn. The market leaders will be the ones who really understand the markets and who know where construction is headed, while the chase group that doesn’t understand and/or care may get crushed.

 


 

Evolving Your Business in a Digital World

We’re producing more data than ever—roughly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day.

With so much data being created and the use of data analytics starting to gain traction in the E&C industry, understanding what big data is and how your organization can leverage it to improve business processes is becoming an increasingly critical aspect of doing business—and a key differentiator.

However, using big data effectively requires the right talent, tools and processes, and presents unique challenges for E&C companies. In fact, many of today’s organizations are either unprepared for or overwhelmed by the magnitude of information. Understanding which data can be useful and how it translates into business intelligence, for example, requires strategic planning and a clear understanding of your organization’s overall goals and vision.

This is no easy task and takes time, money and focus. For some E&C firms, current organizational processes simply can’t accommodate advancements in data analytics. In an industry that is known for being behind the technology adaptation curve, some firms struggle with frontline managers and field staff who often don’t understand how to implement analytical procedures. This can often make it difficult to get companywide participation in new data-driven processes, effectively slowing down the benefits of analytical tools within an organization.

Like it or not, however, all of today’s E&C companies are in the data business and need to adapt to the fast-changing business environment. Particularly in light of a slowing economy further down the road, companies must have a deep understanding of their businesses and operations. Without these insights, E&C firms can’t uncover underlying challenges and/or situations that can impact overall performance. Using data analytics, companies can turn that tide, monitor different key performance indicators (KPIs) and make good forward-looking decisions in real time.

Businesses that fail to identify and fix potential issues will be at a disadvantage in a down cycle. By deploying emerging technologies and implementing and learning about advanced tools and resources, E&C companies can gain real advantage, enhance performance and stay ahead of the curve.

 


 

Controlling Your Own Destiny in Murky Times

Dynamic and inherently risky businesses, E&C firms succeed and fail for various reasons.

Over the years, FMI has found that company failures can often be traced back to several different risk factors. While many E&C firms that go out of business point to external factors as the primary culprits for those failures, we see many examples of companies that succeeded despite the same difficult external forces being present while others failed.

In one of our flagship research studies, “Why Contractors Fail,” for example, many seasoned industry executives emphatically rejected the notion that luck or other extraneous forces were responsible for their companies’ decline. With signs pointing to a possible economic slowdown in the not-too-distant future, it’s a good time to revisit the five root causes of contractor failure—all of which can be mitigated and controlled:

  1. Poor strategic leadership. Strong leadership can serve as a cornerstone for success in even the most difficult market conditions. For example, many companies experience financial difficulty when ownership changes hands from one generation to the next (a process that is taking place across many of today’s E&C firms). To ensure successful ownership transfer and management succession, owners need to prove that the company can grow and succeed without them.
    The only way to do this is by having successors who are capable and willing to lead. At that point, the question becomes, can the next generation carry the business forward. Firms get into trouble here, regardless of whether they are family-owned or not. Companies that lack a clear vision, purpose and a fact-based strategy often find themselves with no set direction. Under poor strategic leadership, people begin making bad decisions (i.e., selecting the wrong projects, hiring the wrong employees, putting the wrong systems in place and so forth), and before the company’s leadership knows it’s happening, the firm can find itself on the path to failure.
  2. Excessive ego. Extremely confident and often unwilling to listen to the opinions and suggestions of others, the leader with an excessive ego can literally take down the entire company. To be a successful contractor, you must have self-confidence and a high tolerance for risk. Contractors also must possess a high degree of optimism, but avoid carrying that optimism and risk tolerance to the extreme—a scenario that can lead to bad business decisions and ultimately company failure. There are many examples of construction firms that have run into financial problems due to the leader’s hubris and perception of being invincible. Sometimes this is referred to as “driving the business off a cliff at 100 mph”—self-destruction at its worst.
  3. Too much change. When too many things happen too quickly, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and thrown off course. Any company can absorb some level of change, but there’s a limit to what most organizations can handle at any given time. To avoid driving too much change in the organization and managing risk more effectively, companies should make a list of everything that’s new, including customers, projects, geographical targets, superintendents, project managers, systems, etc.—to fully understand the speed of change the organization is experiencing. The more changes on the list, the higher the risk of failure. Therefore, it is critical to manage the rate of change on an ongoing basis, particularly in anticipation of a market slowdown.
  4. Loss of discipline. Successful E&C firms tend to be extremely well-disciplined in all areas of their businesses. Most companies that experienced failure grew from small, regional operations into national powerhouses (e.g., J.A. Jones, Guy F. Atkinson, etc.). Along the way, these firms almost universally lost their internal business discipline, became overall bureaucratic and moved outside of their core competencies. On the other hand, there are a few world-class E&C firms that operate with an incredible amount of discipline. They do the same thing the same way, every day and everywhere that they operate. This discipline is baked into the company’s culture, permeates the organization and endures for generations.
  5. Inadequate capitalization. Construction projects have upside limits on the level of profit that you can earn, but the amount of money you can lose is unlimited. The difference between a good year and a great year or a bad year and a catastrophic year can be boiled down to just one or two jobs. Sometimes people will ask us, “How much money should I keep in my construction company?” And we always answer this question by asking, “How much money can you lose on a single construction job?” And when you think about this, the answer is, “All you’ve got.” Overcoming this failure factor requires an adequate capital base that allows you to withstand inevitable problems and live to fight another day. Building a robust equity base will also help you weather a downturn more easily.

Looking ahead and given all the indicators in today’s global economic environment, E&C firms should be cautious and remain vigilant with respect to cash flow management, balance sheet health, operational discipline, rate of change and people. At this point, no one knows when the next recession will hit, but one thing is clear: It will arrive at some point. And when it does, you want to be ready and in control of your own destiny, not the victim of fate.

 


 

The 2019 U.S. Construction Outlook

 

Key Takeaways

Total engineering and construction spending for the U.S. is forecast to end up 5 percent higher in 2018 compared to 2017.
Spending growth in 2018 has been predominantly led by transportation and select private nonresidential segments. The top-three-performing segments in 2018 include nonresidential transportation (+16 percent), lodging (+14 percent) and office (+11 percent). The bottom-three performing segments include religious (-2 percent), multifamily residential (+1 percent) and healthcare (+1 percent).
Looking ahead to 2019, FMI forecasts a 3 percent increase in spending levels over 2018.
Primary growth segments in 2019 are expected to include office, educational, public safety, transportation, conservation and development, and manufacturing – all with forecast growth rates of 5 percent or more. Most other segments will likely grow by roughly the rate of inflation and therefore be considered stable. Multifamily, lodging and religious are three segments expected to experience decline through 2019.
East and West Coast markets are expected to outperform other regions across the country. Through 2019, FMI forecasts the top-three-performing Census divisions will include the Middle Atlantic (+5 percent), Pacific (+5 percent) and the South Atlantic (+4 percent).

 


Total Construction Spending Put in Place 2017 and Forecast Growth
(2017-2022 CAGR) by Construction Segment

 

Total Construction Spending Put in Place 2017 and Forecast Growth
(2017-2022 CAGR) by Metropolitan Statistical Area


 

Residential Construction Put in Place

 

Single-Family
  • While 2018 has been a boon to single-family housing, particularly aided by the rise in employment and the modest rise in average income, 2019 will likely see this trend slow as increases in prices as well as mortgage rates are keeping a growing number of buyers from committing to new purchases.
  • Millennials, the youngest buyer group, generally have been postponing large economic decisions until later in life. Also, among millennials, first-time buyers strongly prefer suburban living.

Drivers: Unemployment rate, core CPI, income, mortgage rate, home prices, housing starts, housing permits

Multifamily
  • U.S. multifamily construction has plateaued toward the end of 2018, with declining investment expected through 2019 and 2020. Though somewhat tied to expected diminishing economic growth, this trend will vary regionally. Going into 2019, as an increasing number of markets recognize oversupply, rents are expected to decline and starts will taper.
  • Recent tax legislation disincentivizing homeownership, rising mortgage rates, millennial buying preferences and practices, and a growing need for affordable housing will continue to uphold multifamily demand long-term. Additionally, on a regional basis, large campus projects planned by Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Google and other large organizations will continue to stimulate spending.

Drivers: Unemployment rate, core CPI, income, mortgage rate, home prices, housing starts, housing permits

Improvements
  • Moving activity is expected to decline in 2019 from 2018. Additionally, home values are expected to plateau within the next 18-24 months, suggesting improvements may experience decline in the years following.
  • Tight labor, rising project costs and expected dampened economic growth will encourage many homeowners to postpone nonessential improvements. However, concurrently, the relative age and value of the home carries opposing influence in many of those same spending decisions.

Drivers: unemployment rate, core CPI, income, mortgage rate, home prices, housing starts, housing permits

 

Total Construction Put in Place
Estimated for the United States


 

Nonresidential Buildings Construction Put in Place

 

Nonresidential Construction Index (NRCI)

NRCI scores are based on a diffusion index where scores above 50 represent improving or expanding industry conditions, a score of 50 represents conditions remaining the same, and a score below 50 represents worse conditions than last quarter (or contraction).

The data in the NRCI is presented as a sampling of construction industry executives voluntarily serving as panelists for this FMI survey. Responses are based on their experience and opinions, and the analysis is based on FMI’s interpretation of the aggregated results.

 

 

Lodging
  • Lodging construction has had strong momentum in 2018, owing to a persistent economic expansion period which has boosted corporate earnings, both business and leisure travel, alongside investments in amusement and convention center spending.
  • Occupancy rates are near the strongest point within the past decade.
  • Though occupancy rates and revenue per available room (RevPAR) have steadily improved during the past few years, rising construction costs and large projects coming online will have an adverse impact on owners’ continued willingness to expand in 2019. Additionally, legislative efforts that have recently spurred casino spending nationwide will generate fewer project opportunities.

Drivers: Occupancy rate, RevPAR, average daily rate, room starts

Office
    • Moving into 2019, demand for office space continues to outpace current supply in select markets. However, notwithstanding large projects planned by Amazon, Apple, Google and other corporate giants, FMI anticipates some contraction beginning in 2020.
    • Office vacancy rates have made modest declines each quarter since the end of 2017, with the highest concentration of construction activity located in larger urban metro areas. While urban office construction activity has been stable through the end of 2018, suburban and rural area project activity has progressively slowed.
    • While data center investment growth continues strong, increasing lease costs, particularly in downtown metro areas, and the growing trend of hoteling and remote work flexibility are contributing to slowing traditional office investment.

Drivers: Office vacancy rate, unemployment rate

Commercial
  • Storefront infrastructure, including shopping centers and malls, will continue to moderate through 2019, while investment in warehouse and distribution logistics centers will continue to expand.
  • The shift from brick-and-mortar space to e-commerce has significantly augmented the capital investment focus of large retailers. One example, Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, has recently announced late 2018 slowing expenditures on new store locations and redirecting resources toward alterations of established space and its warehousing and distribution channels.

Drivers: Retail sales, CPI, income, home prices, housing starts, housing prices

Health Care
  • The U.S. Census expects that by 2034, people 65 and older, for the first time ever, will outnumber those under the age of 18. Also, by 2030, Medicare enrollments are expected to increase nearly 50 percent.
  • Demographic shifts indicate a need for more medical office space. Increased modular construction within health care is anticipated as the means to streamline projects and reduce project costs.
  • Telehealth, wearable health technologies and artificial intelligence are all considered technological breakthroughs in the industry. Each of these advancements has the potential to temper a growing need for traditional health care facilities. Similarly, data management and cybersecurity are increasing concerns.

Drivers: Population change, population change in ages 75 and up, uninsured population, government spending, nonresidential structure investment

Educational
  • Educational enrollments are expected to grow at an increasing rate over the forecast period, both in K-12 and in higher education sectors, driven by demographics and an increased popularity in master’s programs. Endowments continue to increase despite implications from the 2017 tax restructure.
  • Within higher education, tuition revenue growth in private schools (led by larger comprehensives) is expected to nearly double the revenue growth seen at public institutions.
  • A recent Perkins Eastman study suggests K-12 modernization projects offer the greatest impact on a student’s ability to learn and the faculty’s ability to teach. Also, more than half of U.S. K-12 public schools need renovation or modernization investment at an estimated cost of nearly $200 billion.

Drivers: Population change younger than age 18, population change ages 18-24, stock markets, government spending, nonresidential structure investment

Religious
  • Declining attendance frequency, especially among active members, is the predominant driver of declining religious construction investment. Very few large-scale, single-site projects are expected over the forecast period. However, several large land-holding religious owners have begun renovating and expanding facilities to address affordable housing needs.
  • Design trends continue to favor smaller multisite local facilities over larger single-site alternatives. Also, religious facilities are increasingly designed with more gathering spaces and family appeal (e.g., cafes and children’s play areas) along with increased investment in audio/video technology.

Drivers: GDP, population, income, personal savings

Public Safety
  • In recent years, alongside strengthening economic conditions, both states and municipal governments are experiencing growing revenues and increasing construction budgets. Much of this growth is led by expanding metropolitans that require additional emergency and correctional resources.
  • Though local governments are now smaller than they were a decade ago, continued fiscal constraints, tied to ever-increasing pension and Medicaid needs, continue to weigh heavily on capital programs.

Drivers: Population, government spending, incarceration rate, nonresidential structure investment

Amusement and Recreation
  • Several big-budget stadiums, arenas and amusement parks have been active through 2018, with several more expecting to break ground in 2019. Continued and increased investment is anticipated through 2019.
  • Casino construction is expected to plateau and ultimately slow in the coming years, considering most states have now legalized gambling.

Drivers: Income, personal savings rate, unemployment rate, employment

Transportation
  • Large airports all over the country are refocusing capital programs on the redesign of terminals and their amenities. In doing so they are essentially becoming the next-generation shopping malls with expansive retail offerings, fitness and wellness centers, private work booths, children’s play areas, lounges and short-term sleep/rest areas.
  • Though several mega transit projects are expected to break ground in 2019, growing demand for new infrastructure and system maintenance along with increasing construction costs, is outweighing and outpacing growth in funding sources. Political uncertainty is also expected to weigh on the transportation sector over the next several years.

Drivers: Population, government spending, transportation funding

Communication
  • Fourth-generation (4G) technology has plateaued, and the build-out of 5G infrastructure is just beginning. Rather than relying on cell towers, 5G uses many low-powered cells. Total estimated infrastructure costs are just under $300 billion, and experts believe connectivity will be mainstream by 2025.
  • Alongside 5G infrastructure needs, aggressive fiber rollout plans (including deep fiber) are expected over the coming years in response to explosive traffic growth. Operators need more capacity and better coverage than ever. AT&T, as one example, has set goals to increase its network capacity by 50% by the end of 2019.

Drivers: Population, security/regulation standards, private investment, innovation/technology investment

Manufacturing
  • 2017’s tax reform, which brought down the U.S. corporate tax rate (from 35 percent to 21 percent) and encourages repatriation of revenues to the U.S., is expected to continue fueling a rise in manufacturing plant investment. However, the impacts on expansion are likely to subside in the coming years.
  • Tariffs on Chinese imports, as well as retaliatory tariffs on American goods, continue to generate uncertainty. One-third of plant owners recently reported re-evaluating their capital plans as a result of the tariffs and trade disputes.
  • Increased volatility in manufacturing construction is expected if the Trump administration maintains the use of tariffs as a strategic initiative.

Drivers: PMI, industrial production, capacity utilization, durable goods orders, manufacturing inventories


 

Nonbuilding Structures Construction Put in Place

 

Power
  • Electric and gas transmission and distribution projects are expected to continue to drive growth in the power segment as a result of increased renovation and safety requirements alongside a steady shift to natural gas and renewable generation sources.
  • 2019 will see modest growth in generation construction, with several recent large project starts. Tariffs on foreign-made solar panels are not likely to significantly hold back solar generation construction.

Drivers: Population, industrial production, government spending

Highway and Street
  • State budgets have seen growth in recent years and are expected to increase by approximately 3 percent overall in 2019. Similarly, since 2012, 31 states have now passed legislation to boost highway and street funding.
  • Though prospects for passage of a large federal infrastructure package remain elusive, Congress is successfully boosting spend through other means. The 2018 federal omnibus spending package (March) included an additional $3.5 billion for highway projects, representing an 8% increase over 2017 investment levels. Much of this construction spending is expected to occur in 2019.

Drivers: Population, government spending, nonresidential structure investment

Sewage and Waste Disposal
  • The EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund has appropriated an additional $300 million in the 2018 federal omnibus spending package. This funding increase, in addition to growing state and local budgets, is likely to drive modest growth over the forecast period.
  • Compliance with federal wastewater and stormwater regulations is becoming increasingly costly. One result is a growing portion of expenses being redirected into operations and maintenance rather than new projects.

Drivers: Population, industrial production, government spending

Water Supply
  • The 2018 federal omnibus spending package provided an additional $300 million for the EPA’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. Also, the Army Corps of Engineers saw a nearly $790 million increase in its civil works program. These funding increases are expected to support increased spending through the forecast period, particularly in 2019.
  • Long-term spending is likely to grow with increasing pipeline replacement needs. Much of the nation’s million-mile drinking water pipeline system was installed in the mid-20th century and has a life span of approximately 75 years.

Drivers: Population, industrial production, government spending

Conservation and Development
  • Resurgence of the U.S. petrochemical industry is expected to lead to increased environmental quality concerns and spending (e.g., riparian buffers, ecosystem restorations).
  • Hurricane cleanup efforts in Texas and Florida continue from 2017 while Florence and Michael will further support cleanup spending activity through 2020.
  • The Trump administration is seeking to redirect federal investment into military programs at the expense of other civil engineering programs. The administration’s efforts could weigh on future federal funding levels.

Drivers: Population, government spending

 

Chris Daum is the president and chief executive officer of FMI Corporation. Chris oversees the management of all FMI businesses and services and leads the firm’s strategic growth efforts. Previously, Chris served as president and senior managing director of FMI Capital Advisors, the firm’s investment banking subsidiary, where he also led the firm’s utility infrastructure practice. Chris may be reached at cdaum@fminet.com.
Jay Bowman is a principal with FMI. Jay assists a broad range of stakeholders in the construction industry, from program managers and general contractors to specialty trades and materials producers, with the identification and assessment of the risks influencing the strategic and tactical decisions they face. In this role, Jay’s primary responsibilities include research design and interpretation, based on developing an understanding of the context within which these organizations operate. Jay may be reached at jbowman@fminet.com.
Brian Strawberry is a senior economist with FMI. Brian’s expertise is in economic and statistical modeling. He leads FMI’s efforts in market sizing, forecasting, and building product/construction material pricing and consumption trends. Brian’s combination of analytical skills and creative problem-solving abilities has proven valuable for many contractors, owners and private equity groups as well as industry associations and internal research initiatives. Brian may be reached at bstrawberry@fminet.com.

 

 

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