Construction Falls 14%

Nonresidential and public works construction continues to try to pick up the slack while residential building dives. “Part of the slack has been picked up by continued strength for nonresidential building and public works,” said Robert Murray, vice president of economic affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. “This was especially true in June, as several very large projects boosted nonresidential volume.”

The annual rate of nonresidential construction totaled $253.2 billion in June, up a whopping 29% from the prior month. Several very large projects contributed, including a refinery expansion in Louisiana, a Kia Motors auto plant in Georgia, and two very large office buildings. By building type, hotels led the nonresidential expansion with a 185% increase. These included the Fontainebleau project in Las Vegas, and other large hotels in Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Orlando, Fla. Retail construction increased 6%.

Public works construction totaled an annual rate of $125.8 billion in June, a 12% drop that followed a 47% increase in May. Bridges showed the steepest decline: 52%. Sewer projects increased 18%, while highway construction and water supply systems jumped 15% and 9%, respectively.

The residential sector was up 4% in June, thanks to a 40% jump in multifamily housing from a very weak May. But single-family building continued its plunge, falling 3% in dollar volume.

For the first half of 2007, construction totaled $310.1 billion, a 14% drop from 2006. Residential construction has fallen 26% in that time. Non-residential fell a fraction of a percent, while public works, or nonbuilding construction, increased 4%.

Florida Rock OKs Sale

Florida Rock Industries' shareholders overwhelmingly approved its sale to Vulcan Materials Co. of Birmingham, Ala. Vulcan announced in February that it would buy Florida Rock of Jacksonville, Fla., for $4.6 billion. A closing date was not announced. The combined company will have extensive concrete and aggregate operations in the Southeast, Southwest, and Midwest. For more on the transaction, visit www.vulcanfloridarock.com.

Boral Acquires Oklahoma Operations

Boral Ltd., a large construction materials company in Australia, has bought Schwarz Readymix in Oklahoma City and the quarry assets of Davis Arbuckle Materials for $80 million. The sale includes 18 concrete batch plants, more than 160 trucks and tankers, five sand deposits, and a limestone quarry in Davis, Okla. The combined operations produce 750,000 yards of ready-mixed concrete and 1.6 million tons of sand aggregate annually. Visit www.boral.com.au.

Wake-up Call

The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association (NRMCA) is bringing attention to the country's infrastructure in the wake of the Aug. 1, I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis that killed 13 people.

“America's infrastructure is ailing, and NRMCA calls on Congress to make investments to fix our systems to provide a safer and more secure future for all Americans,” the association announced. In addition to roads and bridges, NRMCA is calling for increased spending on aging wastewater plants and dams. For more information, visit www.nrmca.org, or e-mail Robert Sullivan, senior vice president of governmental and legal affairs at rsullivan@nrmca.org.