The beginning of the New Year is upon us and it is time to take stock of the past year and look forward to the next. The industry saw solid growth in 2016 with particular strength in multi-family residential construction and commercial construction. Our vendors verified the trend as they experienced growth in sales of both residential and commercial heads. There was also solid evidence of growth in the inspection, testing and service side of our business. The level of overall construction activity in the West and Northeast were noticeably strong, and we believe the supply and demand ratio for our work has led to some welcome increase in margin for the contractors working in those markets.
As we set our budgets and forecasts for 2017, it would be prudent to say we are in for more steady and solid growth. The national economists and consultants who track construction activity are calling for average construction growth of 3 percent with certain markets and segments growing at a more robust clip. Some of the areas of the country that were softer in 2016 should see more of a pickup in activity in 2017. It appears the election of Donald Trump has unleashed a surge in stock prices and the animal spirits seem to be stirring. The bank stocks and financial institutions have had a very strong run since November 9 and their strength since the election bodes well for the general business climate. The banks’ adverse sentiments towards risk and regulatory restraints should loosen up, which will allow the creators and developers of our great nation to get on with projects and construction.
We at AFSA have seen trends that speak to this growth as contractor members are filling our design school to capacity with new faces. Our sprinkler fitter apprenticeship materials continue to sell at a brisker clip, indicating strong growth needs in field operations. I am hearing more and more laments about the ability to find qualified help and many companies are starting to feel the strains of wage pressures as the demand for our services and our people raises. This is a natural occurrence as the laws of supply and demand exercise their cold hard facts. Those who adapt to these changes the quickest will survive to be the fittest.
Take advantage of the wind in our sails and take advantage of what our association has to offer. Get some young and inexperienced people in your operations and train them up. I am often pleasantly surprised at how quickly good people can become well-trained and valued employees. We at AFSA have all the tools and know how to help you and your companies.
Michael F. Meehan is chairman of the AFSA Board of Directors.