Building Construction Contracts Decline in Oklahoma

Article excerpt

Total building construction contracts dropped 8.9 percent in Oklahoma last year despite an 8-percent rise in residential construction, according to new reports by the McGraw-Hill Construction Research and Analytics Unit.

Tulsa's total building contracts slipped just 2 percent in 2011, while Oklahoma City building construction contracts dropped 12 percent.

The numbers surprised some Oklahoma construction industry executives anticipating stronger results.

"Our experience has been we grew last year over the previous in terms of volume, and most of that has been in K-12 educational projects," said Clay Cockrill, director of business development at the Boldt Co.'s Oklahoma City office.

Since the McGraw-Hill reports chart contract activity, not actual construction, several executives attributed parts of the lower 2011 results to large projects let in 2010 or extended into that year, such as Devon's headquarters construction project, Washington's stimulus package roadwork contracts and the 2008-2009 wave of Oklahoma school district bond efforts.

"A good amount of that work has been let at this point," Key Construction Tulsa Vice President and General Manager Phil Wells said of the school projects. "I know Broken Arrow has another phase coming out."

Bob Jack, senior vice president over the Tulsa Division for Manhattan Construction, has also linked the comparative activity shortfalls to a general decline in the size of construction projects through these post-recession years.

"The size of those projects, they're still relatively small to what we would have seen five years ago," said Cockrill in a telephone interview. "The number of $50 million opportunities to the number of $5 million opportunities ... the proportion is very different to what it used to be, and that has a lot to do with the overall figures as well."

Statewide, nonresidential construction contracts for all of 2011 dropped 21 percent from the prior year to $1.907 billion. That countered the 8-percent rise in residential contracts to an almost identical $1.904 billion. Nonbuilding construction pacts tumbled 49 percent to $1.5 billion.

In metropolitan Tulsa, nonresidential construction contracts fell 12 percent in 2011 to $626.4 million. But residential construction rose 10 percent to $646. …