Launch Slideshow

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Bright Spots in a Struggling Market

Bright Spots in a Struggling Market

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    B.W. Dexter worked on the C.B. Jennings Elementary School in New London, Conn.

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    Masonry was a major component of the new Charles D. Duckworth building in Garland, Texas. Artisan Masonry was the mason contractor.

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    Artisan Masonry worked on the new Harry McKillop Elementary School in Melissa, Texas. Masonry contractors are counting on new school construction for additional business in the upcoming year.

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    Huntington Park is home to the Columbus Clippers minor league baseball team in Columbus, Ohio. Lang Masonry Contractors of Waterford, Ohio, worked on the stadium which seats 10,000 fans.

“The deteriorating physical condition of the nation's public schools actually presents an opportunity for federal spending that is targeted to near-term growth, by creating high-quality jobs. That also provides long-term benefits by building a better learning environment,” says Mary Filardo, a member of the Advisory Board of the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.

Public construction

A little more than one-third of our Top Contractors are involved in public works projects such as courthouses, military facilities, jails and prisons, and tourist centers.

“Public works is an important part of our business,” says Lindon, Utah-based IMS Masonry Inc. “Most of our work comes from government projects.” While IMS entered 2010 with a backlog of work, the contractor is concerned about a lack of business going into 2011. Similarly, public works projects account for 90% of Burgess & Burgess' business.

The military is also providing a slight boost for the construction industry, and masonry contractors are looking to build on this trend. The Department of Defense Military Construction Program's spending plans include $2.18 billion for new barracks and hospitals for the armed services.

“The MCAA is looking to educate the military and talk to senators about using masonry,” says Damian Lang, marketing committee chairman for the Mason Contractors Association of America, and president of Lang Masonry Contractors in Waterford, Ohio.

One such project was awarded to Barnhart Inc. in San Diego. Forty masons worked on the $24.6 million Wounded Warrior barracks at the U.S. Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton near San Diego.

Steve Ross, office manager for Thameside Masonry in San Francisco, agrees with what many other contractors are saying. The market is “very competitive, but jobs are still available,” he explains.

Restoration

While new construction has declined, the masonry restoration business has been solid. “The restoration business has done extremely well,” says Karen Forrer, president of Masonry Restoration Inc. in Milwaukee. "Things have been very steady for us.”

Some contractors have reversed their business ventures in favor of restoration. “Whereas 5 to 10% was remodeling and restoration in the past, now it is 90 to 95% of my business,” says John Frisch, president of Western Masonry Inc. in Woodinville, Wash.

Despite niches like schools, military, and restoration, some feel the masonry industry must do a better job putting its foot forward. Frisch, who also is president of the Residential Masonry Contractors Association, says the industry should improve its marketing and promotion efforts. "We have not been stepping up and taking care of business," he says.

Lang agrees, saying, "Masons continue to lose market share." Promotion must be increased to educate the public about masonry's long-term benefits rather than short-term costs.

“The future is bright but we can't control the market,” says Pat McLaughlin, executive director of the Masonry Association of Florida. “You can't control the size of the pie, just the size of the slice.”


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