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How's Your Project Pipeline?

April 7, 2009
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Walking through downtown Nashville last week, I heard a country singer lamenting that he lost his girlfriend, his pickup truck and his construction business. OK, that last one was actually his hound dog, but it won’t be long before we hear songs about the heartbreak of losing construction work.

I was in the Music City for a trade show called INTEX, which brings together wall and ceiling contractors, architects, and exterior insulating and finishing professionals.

Attendance on the first day of the show exceeded my expectations. Knowing how much construction pros are hurting, I anticipated an empty exhibit hall. While attendance was not exactly robust, a steady stream of visitors came by our booth to pick up our magazines and talk shop.

A majority of the contractors said they still had projects in the pipeline. They were getting killed on residential work, but their commercial work was keeping them going.

One contractor said he had enough work to stay busy until August. Another said he had enough in his pipeline to carry his company through November.

But compared with past years, when their pipelines were overflowing for 24 months or more, new projects were frozen or invisible. Each contractor wore the look of someone who knew dark times were around the corner, save an eleventh-hour stay of execution.

And yet these pros were still positive, still hopeful. They felt lots of commercial jobs were in limbo, just waiting to be green-lighted. Maybe the federal stimulus packages would free up financing, or perhaps the economy would rebound and give developers the confidence to move forward.

Outside the convention center, downtown Nashville sported an impressive 29-story, LEED Silver-certified office and retail project called Pinnacle Symphony Place (www.pinnaclesymphonyplace.com). Even on Saturday, the site was humming with construction activity.

I spoke with a couple of pros reviewing blueprints for the project and told them how glad I was they were working. They both responded with a cheerful “me too”. Their facial expressions and demeanors spoke even louder. They were relieved and excited to be working. Their reactions reminded me of how often we take our jobs for granted.

Unfortunately, the second day of the trade show was pretty dead. Too many construction pros had concluded they simply could not afford to travel or take time away from their businesses to make the trip.

What about your project pipeline? How many months do you have before your work runs out? What will it take to refill your pipeline? Where do you see opportunity?

Share your thoughts by posting a comment to this blog. You just might be a huge encouragement to your peers who need to read some positive observations.
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