Revenue Gains, Declines Split Among Largest Commercial Contractors

Business rebounded in 2011 and returned to 2009 levels for the state's 20 largest commercial contractors. Among this group, combined revenue totaled more than $1.87 billion.

The one-year change represented an 11.3 percent bounce from $1.68 billion in 2010. This year's list expanded to 30 companies, with 13 reporting gains and 12 reporting declines. The other five didn't report 2010 revenue or had no change.

(Click here for a PDF list of the state's largest commercial contractors. A spreasheet version of the list is available here.)

James H. Cone Inc. of Little Rock registered the biggest one-year increase of them all at 88.2 percent. The company ranked No. 6 with total 2011 revenue of $62.1 million.

Jimmy Cone said the past two years represent a nice spike in business.

"We are on a roller coaster," Cone said. "I don't see us maintaining that volume for 2012, but there are some opportunities that could really show up for us in 2013."

Three other firms recorded annual revenue growth north of 50 percent for 2011: No. 9 Clark Contractors LLC of Little Rock, 69.5 percent; tied at No. 19 Hill & Cox Corp. of Hot Springs, 64.3 percent; and No. 4 Latco Inc. of Lincoln (Washington County), 60 percent.

No. 7 CR Crawford Construction Inc. of Fayetteville has ridden out the past few years with a foundation of work for schools and retailers and restaurants that have continued to grow during the recession.

"It hasn't gotten any worse, and we've all made adjustments to this market," said Cody Crawford, company president. "The good competition is still around. A lot of the guys who shouldn't have been in the market aren't here anymore. It's a healthier environment.

"The private sector work has almost disappeared. There's no spec building of office buildings and retail centers."

The view from south Arkansas is slightly different at No. 11 Ideal Construction Co. of Crossett.

Mike Webb, company president, said his firm had to stretch beyond its normal market to land the Jonesboro Healthcare Center project in the face of increased competition.

"We had a good volume year," Webb said. "I see some dips coming up, so I don't know if we'll be able to maintain that.

"School work is still good, but it's starting to slow down. I am seeing more private work coming on than I have in a long time."

Doug Wasson, president of No. 10 Kinco Constructors LLC of Little Rock, hasn't seen a change in the volume of business so far compared with 2011. He reports the company has four new projects in motion.

"We're getting ready to kick off a Chrysler Dodge Jeep dealership for Steve Landers in west Little Rock, and we'll be renovating Hotz Hall back to dorms at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville," Wasson said. "We've started work on the Midsouth Community Wellness Center in West Memphis, and we're in the early stages of the Pulaski Tech Culinary Arts Center project in Little Rock."

Van Tilbury, president of No. 12 East-Harding Inc. of Little Rock, said his company remains on track for a good year.

"Our business has been growing, and we are actually in a hiring mode," Tilbury said. "I've been very pleased with the market, and that's in large part to our company getting involved in public-sector projects in 2007."

Sam Hollis, president of No. 17 Milestone Construction Co. of Springdale, said health care-related construction is picking up in the four-state region of Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas where his company competes for business.

"Our region is still working through a surplus of retail and office," Hollis said.

He said more developers were returning to action after waiting and watching for favorable signs from the economy.

"I feel good about the direction we're going in 2012," Hollis said. "I think things will continue to improve on through to 2013."