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INDEPENDENT 9/18/07 11:51 AM Page 10

REGIONAL SPOTLIGHT: ROCKY MOUNTAINS

Energized Region
ENERGY-RELATED AND CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS WILL KEEP CON-
STRUCTION ROBUST IN ROCKY MOUNTAIN STATES. By Brooke Knudson

T
he sustaining factor for the construction industry What’s in the Pipeline
today is a booming nonresidential sector. In the Major energy developments in parts of Wyoming have been a
Rocky Mountain region, nonresidential and non- boon to the Rocky Mountain region. In response to the region’s
structural building have been heavily supported by long-term and growing energy needs, electric utility Rocky
new development in the energy, institutional and Mountain Power, the Salt Lake City division of PacifiCorp,
heavy highway segments. recently proposed to use a section of a restored surface coal mine
Montana General Contractor’s Association Executive Director as part of a 99-megawatt wind project in 2008. The utility plans
Cary Herenberger has seen its members benefit from the robust to place 66 wind turbines on the proposed 14,000-acre project
work in the highway and street construction segment for years. site in Glenrock, Wyo. It hopes to complete the project in fall
“Historically, over the last decade or so, our members have been 2008. The U.S. Department of Energy lists Wyoming as one of
doing state highway work and federal aid highway work,” the best states for wind power generation based on wind fre-
Herenberger notes. quency, the company says.
The association represents professionals in the commercial
and industrial sectors. “We have close to 200 supplier members
who range from design firms to asphalt and cement producers
to building companies and specialty contractors,” Herenberger
says. About 60 percent of its members are employed in the heavy
“IT FOR THE SHORT-TERM,
LOOKS TO BE A PRETTY
highway sector and 40 percent in commercial building, he says.
State budget cuts, along with escalating construction costs
HEALTHY MARKET.
Cary Herenberger ”
have thinned the number of available highway contracts, leading
many to contract with private developers. “We’ve been fortunate In early August, PacifiCorp also teamed with the Wyoming
in Montana that there has been a sizeable boom in the commer- Infrastructure Authority, National Grid and the Arizona Public
cial sector, so they’ve remained relatively busy paving retail park- Service Co., to bring new transmission lines to the Rocky
ing lots,” Herenberger says. “For the short-term, it looks to be a Mountain and Desert Southwest regions. The announcement is
pretty healthy market throughout most of the state.” aligned with the company’s intent to construct roughly 1,200
Supporting Herenberger’s optimism is strong employment miles of new 500-kilovolt transmission lines by 2014.
growth in the industry in the last three years. “Construction
employment has grown at a rate that leads any other sector in Developing for the Future
the state,” he says. “Construction has been extremely healthy and Commercial construction activity is robust in other parts of the
kind of diversified the state’s economy in the past several years.” region, Utah in particular. Utah’s Division of Facilities and
An increase in big-box development in central Montana “has Construction Management (DFCM), has more than $1 billion
taken up a lot of slack for the highway program,” Herenberger worth of capital development projects in the works, with an
claims. Yet, he feels the state has untapped potential in energy additional $300 million slated for capital improvement projects,
development that developers and the state government have yet says Robert Franson, manager of construction services. The divi-
to take advantage of. “There is a huge potential in parts of our sion is responsible for administering the design and construc-
state for energy development, but we have not seen the kind of tion of all state projects exceeding $100,000.
construction boom associated with it,” he notes. “Montana’s envi- According to Franson, the construction climate in the state
ronmental and regulatory environment is not conducive to ener- “has been a very dynamic one” in recent years, although the
gy companies investing large sums of capital here, so they go to region, like others, is affected by material inflation, sometimes as
other states,” he says. high as 25 percent in the past two years.

10 ■ CONSTRUCTION TODAY ■ OCTOBER 2007