1. Construction, because of the long-term nature of much of its work, is an industry whose economic outlook can be difficult to project.
“We’ve got big jobs that span 24-36 months, and then we have others, call them six- to 12-month jobs, and revenues are majorly impacted based on when those start and finish,” says Todd Watson, Robins & Morton’s Tampa operations manager. “But we do a lot of work in health care, and that’s a good market to be in here in the Tampa Bay area.”
Robins & Morton is a Birmingham, Alabama-based construction company and Tampa Bay is one of its busiest markets. It has an office in Tampa and is involved in about a dozen projects in the region. In May, it celebrated the completion of the $152 million, 143,000-square-foot expansion of St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
“That’s one of four high-profile, major projects that we’ve completed in the past three years that accounted for about a half-billion dollars’ worth of work,” Watson says, adding that he expects 2023 to be about the same as 2022 in terms of revenue. “It’ll be pretty close. Health care is going to be stable compared to other sectors of construction.”
2. According to Watson, hospitality and retail construction will continue to be slow as those sectors recover from the pandemic. While that might not seem, on the surface, as an opportunity for growth, it could ease pressure on supply chains, benefiting builders like Robins & Morton that specialize in other industries.
"We may benefit slightly just due to more commodities becoming available," he says.
Watson and his team are also keeping an eye on what happens with the Tropicana Field redevelopment in St. Petersburg, though the surrounding area already boasts several major health care facilities.
"We have no intention of leaving our niche of health care," he says. "That will remain 90% of what we do across the country. That's what our our employees are experienced in. It takes a special skill set to be able to work inside and and outside of a hospital without interrupting their services, though that's not to say we wouldn't try to pursue something like (the Tropicana Field site)."
3. All sectors, however, would benefit if the construction industry’s labor shortage improves. Inflation and supply-chain snafus generated most of the headlines in 2022, Watson says, but “labor is still a big challenge. The data says we’ve lost roughly 1.5 million workers since 2008.”
Some of that decline was because of the late 2000s recession, and while many jobs have come back, “about a half-million are still needed to meet current demand,” Watson adds. “We perceive that the residential construction will be slowing down in the next year or two, and that’ll help a bit, but it still doesn’t make up the huge deficit. Labor is really strained. Everybody’s competing for the same resources.”