Construction firms are back in demand in NHBy MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader
January 15. 2017 11:23PM
MANCHESTER — Business is good for Amherst construction company Fulcrum Associates, which is among the contractors that are enjoying a building boom in the Granite State, driven by pent-up demand from manufacturing, health care, hospitality and other industries.
Entering 2017, the firm is enjoying “one of the highest backlogs in our history,” spanning more than a quarter-century, Bill Jean, director of business development, said last week. “In general, we are exceedingly optimistic about this year.”
The company is working on $20 million worth of projects at BAE Systems in Nashua and hopes to secure more work from the defense contractor this year. It also expects to build the addition to the LaBelle Winery in Amherst, as it did the original building.
The firm within the past 18 months has added 12 employees to bolster its workforce to 34.
Fulcrum’s current Manchester projects include building an addition to Temco Tool Co. on Holt Avenue.
About 1.5 miles away, Anderson Equipment Co. is spending $6 million for renovations and an addition on Candia Road.
“It was just at the point the building was getting old, and business is good and the economy is good,” said branch manager Joshua Thomas. “I guess it was time to do it.”
Steel girders and two-by-fours are spotted around the state, in an industry employing more than 40,000 people in New Hampshire, according to Anita Josten, a research analyst with the state’s Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau.
“I would say all the builders are very, very busy,” said Brenda Richards, executive officer of the Lakes Region Builders and Remodelers Association in New Hampton. The group has about 80 members, half of whom are builders and construction companies.
Health care is another hot spot, with new medical buildings rising across the state.
At least three new assisted-living places — in Londonderry, Nashua and Peterborough — were under construction in 2016, with a fourth — in Rye — receiving an addition, according to Kristen Schmidt, director of communications with the New Hampshire Health Care Association in Pembroke.
Another new project is slated to open in 2018 in Whitefield.
More Massachusetts companies also want to head north.
Thomas Farrelly, an executive at the commercial real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield, said he met just last week with a medical device manufacturer from Massachusetts that wants to build a new facility on the Seacoast.
“They want to come to the more business-friendly climate of New Hampshire,” Farrelly said.
“We are starting to see more demand across the spectrum for all types of uses,” he said, including companies building logistics centers near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
Work is nearing completion at a new 120,000-square-foot building in Exeter for GourmetGiftBaskets.com, which is relocating from Kingston, according to Farrelly, who represented the property owner, Monahan Companies in Nashua.
Workers are moving in conveyor systems and shelving while the building’s exterior is being finished.
A building with higher ceilings improves efficiency and “drives the bottom line,” Farrelly said. “The sooner they are in the building, the faster they are able to improve their (profit) margin.”
At Anderson Equipment Co., Thomas said the Manchester and Portland branches are seeing steady growth.
Business in 2014 “was OK, ’15 was real good, ’16 we were up probably 10 percent,” Thomas said. “We think probably the same thing for ’17.”
The Manchester location will net about 10,000 more square feet and is becoming a parts center as well.
At Fulcrum Associates, Jean said his firm continues to see a lot of medical work, which accounts for between $8 million and $12 million a year.
“The multiple-family housing has been a huge uptick” in the past three to four years, he said.
Fulcrum built Copper Door restaurant in Bedford and plans to build at a second location, in Salem.
“We’ve seen a gradual uptick in volume and workload since coming out of the recession,” he said.
Jean said he hears from many architects and engineers who “are very, very busy.
“That’s an indication of future volume for construction guys,” he said.