Saturday, November 12, 2011

Engineers signal construction rise is coming

More than 60% of the 93 engineering firms in New York that responded to The American Council of Engineering Cos. survey said are optimistic or somewhat optimistic about prospects for 2012.

Twenty out of the Top 25 New York area engineering firms say they've added staff in the last year, and 15 of them have picked up new contracts, in a harbinger of happier times for building industry. 

By Rebecca Olles 

Things may be looking up soon for the construction industry. Engineering firms, widely seen as the bellwethers of the building industry, are showing gains in employment and in the number of their projects. The numbers posted by these outfits, which land contracts on new projects and begin the design work long before the construction industry breaks ground, are surprisingly good.

Out of the Top 25 firms on Crain's list of the New York area's largest engineering firms, no less than 20 reported increases in employment here from 2010 to 2011, and 15 reported an increase in the number of their projects here.

“I think engineering will see some uptick next year and this will translate into more construction projects much later in the year,” said Cyrus Izzo, co-president of No. 23-ranked Syska Hennessy Group Inc.

AECOM tops the list in terms of headcount, with 387 licensed engineers in the New York area, 32 more than it had in 2010. The company added 240 projects this year, bringing its total to 1,240. Each of the Top 3 companies on Crain's list, including Parsons Brinckerhoff and Arup, saw increases in revenue, projects and employees.

Arup, No. 3 on the list, added 35 licensed engineers from 2010 to 2011. Many of them were hired to work on projects for private developers in the Middle East and Asia.

“The main reason we have an increase in workload is a combination of private- and public-agency work,” said Craig Covil, principal at the firm. “Some of the private work we're doing for overseas clients is done by New York-based architects and engineers.”

AECOM's largest New York project is the Second Avenue Subway. A number of the other firms who made the list are also working on designs for big tunnel and bridge projects. That includes Weidlinger Associates Inc., which is hard at work on the Tappan Zee Bridge project.

Such public-sector projects have dominated the workload of local engineering firms in recent years, but in another sign of an industry turnaround, the balance may be shifting a bit. In 2009, most private-sector projects came to a grinding halt and the public sector was able to pick up the slack. But in 2011, several firms reported a pickup in demand for private-sector projects. Syska Hennessy, for example, noted that 80% of its projects are now in the private sector.

Overall, engineering firms have a positive outlook for the coming year. More than 60% of the 93 firms in New York that responded to The American Council of Engineering Cos. survey said are optimistic or somewhat optimistic about prospects for 2012. Syska Hennessy recently completed its five-year strategic plan and expects to build on its New York market share in the commercial sector.

One area of concern, however, is the level of funding from the hard-pressed state of New York. The Council of Engineering Cos. survey found that 62% of New York firms had concerns about the level of state funding.

“All of the indicators have been that our infrastructure is in dire condition and more money needs to be invested,” said Hannah O'Grady, vice president of ACEC New York. “It will impact people's lives if they can't get to work on time because bridges and roads are no longer serviceable.”

1 comment:

I would ask that if you would like to leave a comment that you think of Local 157 Blogspot as your online meeting hall and that you wouldn’t say anything on this site that you wouldn’t, say at a union meeting. Constructive criticism is welcome, as we all benefit from such advice. Obnoxious comments are not welcome.