Falling Revenue Overshadows Most Commercial Contractors

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jun. 28, 2010 12:00 am  

Total revenue among the top 20 commercial contractors in Arkansas tumbled to $1.8 billion during 2009. The fall was reflected across the state's roster of firms. Only four general contractors reported year-to-year revenue gains in this year's list. (Click here to see the list and here for a spreadsheet version.)

Leading the way was Van Horn Construction Inc. of Russellville with a 32 percent jump to $33 million, which ranked No. 9. That propelled the company from No. 17 last year, making it the biggest mover on the list.

Little Rock's Baldwin & Shell Construction Co., which works exclusively on Arkansas projects, recorded a 15.6 percent climb and ranked No. 4 with 2009 revenue of $129.5 million.

Combined revenue for the top 20 firms stood at nearly $2.28 billion in 2006, $2.61 billion in 2007 and $2.21 billion in 2008.

Bill Hannah, CEO at Conway's Nabholz Construction Corp., said the health care and education sectors had helped sustain the company's book of business and generated requests for proposals the past couple of years.

"We're pretty lucky in the sense that we have a strong backlog, especially out of the central Arkansas operations," Hannah said. "Things are still pretty slow in northwest Arkansas, but we're starting to see things pick up with more opportunities and more RFPs coming out."

Annual revenue grew 4.1 percent at Nabholz, which ranked No. 2 at $450.8 million. Rounding out the firms with year-to-year revenue gains is Little Rock's Dave Grundfest Co., with a 1.4 percent increase to $22.8 million that ranked No. 16.

Michael Garner, chief development officer with Little Rock's James H. Cone Inc., said uncertainty about the economy and the financial markets made for a tough 2 ½ years for commercial contractors.

"Our last year was terrible, but this year is going to be much better," Garner said. "Since April, we've seen a significant increase in construction activity. Projects that we thought were dead have come back to life."

Double-digit declines in business were common among contractors in this year's list, with eight reporting revenue drops of 20 percent or more.

Declines in business among contractors during 2009 ranged from 37.5 percent at Little Rock's East-Harding Inc. (No. 13 with revenue of $25 million) to 6.7 percent at CBM Construction Co. (No. 18 with revenue of $14 million). CBM moved its headquarters from North Little Rock to Little Rock.

CR Crawford Construction Inc. of Fayetteville opened its doors in February 2006, catching the tail end of the boom times and the front end of the lean times in northwest Arkansas.



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