Looking back, looking forward

Between COVID-19 and presidential politics, slowed economies and shrinking end markets, 2020 has garnered more than enough attention for what has gone wrong during the calendar year.

While discussing these issues is an inescapable part of reporting on the C&D sector these days, I’m happy to report something more positive in our final issue of the year—our biennial Top Demolition Contractors List.

This list, which ranks the nation’s top contractors by revenue for 2019, highlights those businesses and professionals working day in and day out to tackle the country’s demo needs.

Notably, many of the contractors on our list show elevated revenues for 2019. While this is, of course, a positive, it inevitably leads to wondering what may be in store when we crunch these numbers again for the 2021 iteration of the Top Demolition Contractors List.

According to National Demolition Association (NDA) President Chris Godek, there are both positive and negative signs for the industry heading into 2021. On the positive side of the ledger, Godek notes that construction employment numbers have been climbing over the last several months and demo contractors have been, by and large, working through their backlogs, with some securing abatement and remediation work related to COVID. Additionally, a recent NDA survey shows two-thirds of members have not laid off workers or instituted a hiring freeze as a result of the pandemic.

On the negative side, backlogs have slipped for construction contractors year over year. Moreover, half of the respondents to NDA’s survey indicated a 0-10 percent decrease in their operating budget because of COVID, a quarter of respondents reported seeing a 20 percent drop, and a quarter saw a 30 percent drop in revenue.

Godek says, bigger picture, he anticipates project cancellations to lead to job losses on the nonresidential side of the business absent federal funding for infrastructure. He also says constricted state and local budgets may hurt the demo sector by leaving less money to finance infrastructure projects.

To combat some of these issues, Godek says NDA has started a grassroots campaign to encourage Congress to include significant infrastructure investment in Phase IV of the stimulus package. He also says a greater focus on deconstruction, implementation of technology to ensure safer work sites, and the availability of power plant decommissioning work portend some bright spots on the horizon for the industry.

As the industry, and the country, crosses its fingers for a rebound in 2021, it bears remembering that even the toughest years end—even if some seem longer than others.

Check out “Top 40 Demolition Contractors in the US” to see who made the list.

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