Umpqua Bank Finds Construction Companies Remain Optimistic about Overall Economic Conditions

While construction companies continue to face supply chain disruption as a result of the pandemic, these companies are more optimistic (56 percent) than the national average (52 percent), expecting overall economic conditions in the U.S. will improve, according to a new study from Umpqua Bank.

The survey clearly shows that construction firms tend to see improving finances in the year ahead. About 66 percent said they expect revenues to increase, compared with an average of 55 percent for all sectors, and only behind that of retail (67 percent). The construction industry also expects profits to rise, with 52 percent saying so, compared with an average of 45 percent, and trailing only retail (67 percent) and manufacturing (57 percent).

The findings are part of a 2021 Business Barometer report just released by Umpqua Bank that provides an in-depth study into the mood, mindset and strategic priorities of nearly 1,200 leaders at small and mid-size companies across the United States. The survey breaks down results into seven major industries.

Construction firms also said they will continue to retool their approaches over the next year. Remarkably, 73 percent said they plan to make significant changes to pricing, more than any other sector, with the others trailing well behind, such as manufacturing (50 percent), business services (49 percent), and wholesale (48 percent). About 34 percent said they are likely to take on debt to grow in the coming 12 months, versus 29 percent of all those polled. About 31 percent are considering increasing their real estate footprint, similar in inclination to other industries (32 percent).

“Construction firms of all sizes have shown remarkable resilience during the pandemic, and generally appear optimistic about the economy and their prospects for growth,” says Richard Cabrera, executive vice president and head of middle market banking at Umpqua Bank. “They have faced volatile commodity prices and labor shortages, but strong demand for real estate, such as housing and warehouses, has allowed operators to pass much of the rising costs on to buyers.”

Like many enterprises, businesses in the construction industry have made changes and adapted in response to the pandemic. However, they are less like than other business to keep changes made long term: Only about 37 percent of firms said they will maintain most or all of the changes they put in place since March of last year, the lowest among all sectors in the study. The national average was 54 percent.

Some other key takeaways from the survey:

  • About 95 percent of the construction industry said they had supply issues over the last 12 months, compared with an average of 88 percent for all sectors.
  • Roughly 20 percent of construction firms said they are more likely to acquire another business in the coming year, versus 26 percent of all companies. Only health care had a lower number, at 15 percent. Business services and wholesalers were the most likely to acquire, both polling at 34 percent.
  • Only 33 percent of construction firms said they would likely automate repetitive tasks over the next year, well below the average of 44 percent, but 58 percent they would look for ways to digitize the business to improve efficiency, in line with the average of 59 percent.

“We see very encouraging signs despite some macroeconomic adversity,” Cabrera says. “We’re likely going to see strong growth in construction for the foreseeable future, thanks to strong demand and the push to upgrade the nation’s infrastructure. We’re just getting started.”

Read the full Umpqua Bank 2021 Business Barometer.

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