It’s hard to believe that we’re already more than a month into the new year! We’re excited about what the year ahead holds and want to provide an outlook on what industry experts are predicting the future holds for commercial electrical contractors like Miller Electric.

Not wanting to stick just to national trends, we caught up with Chief Estimator Rick Evans to pick his brain about what the months ahead may hold for Miller Electric and the Omaha-area businesses we are privileged to serve.

National Slowdown Expected

Like meteorologists, industry publications forecast what they think our industry will experience in the months ahead. EC&M expects the overall electrical construction market to slow down in 2020. Across America, cities have largely bounced back from the recession in 2007 to 2009, posting healthy growth activity over the last few years. However, a bit of a slowdown is expected this year.

Still, all business is local. Omaha’s story may not follow national predictions. The Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce conducted its annual Economic Outlook Survey and found CEOs are optimistic about the year ahead.

Many plan to continue their current levels of capital investments and employees. Half expect to increase jobs and spend more money on major projects such as real estate, manufacturing plants, machinery. Other highlights from the survey include the following:

  • 70% project sales revenue to be higher
  • 45% expect to increase employees
  • 46% plan to invest more capital in 2020 than 2019

Areas of growth nationwide have included:

  • Data centers
  • Airports
  • Light rail, ports and liquid natural gas projects

While we may not have the latter two types of projects in Omaha, we have been privileged to perform data center work, and at Miller Electric, we have quite a bit of health care work on the horizon.

“Interestingly, data centers and health care projects tend to have an inverse relationship,” says Rick Evans, Chief Estimator for Miller Electric. “When data center work is strong, health care work slows down and vice versa. Right now, data centers are going strong, but we see that the health care sector will be picking up with plans they have been working on here locally.”

Overall, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Consensus Construction Forecast for nonresidential construction forecasts 2.4 percent growth this year. The industrial market is expected to grow at a rate of 3.3 percent. Both figures are positive and keep us optimistic about what lies ahead for Omaha.

Transportation Will Drive Growth in Omaha and Council Bluffs

Matt Tondl, Senior Vice President of HDR, told ENR that major investments by the Nebraska and Iowa Departments of Transportation should drive construction activity at both a city and state level. He expects cities to try to go beyond concrete and widenings, trying to get as much efficiency as possible out of their projects this year.

Beyond transportation, ENR expects total nonresidential construction to remain nearly unchanged from last year in the Omaha and Council Bluffs areas. Institutional projects at health care facilities and educational buildings is predicted to be down slightly.

“Omaha is typically insulated from national trends a bit,” says Evans. “That trend should continue this year. Talking with local architects and engineers, there’s quite a few projects on the books that should keep things busy in Omaha this year.”

New Hires Will Continue to Remain Important

Hiring skilled, qualified workers for projects is one challenge that industry analysts expect electrical contractors to continue to face in 2020. We’ve seen that challenge here at home and have met it with increased recruiting activity that has paid off with new hires we’re thrilled about. 

Still, a need for qualified, educated workers remains. “Businesses are looking to expand, but are finding it difficult to hire qualified personnel to jump right in with the experience they need to hit the ground running.”

Beyond the need for more workers, the only other challenge on the horizon is the fact that it’s an election year. “In presidential election years, we tend to see business slow down slightly around the mid to late summer as people wait for election results,” says Evans.

Miller Electric Has the Values and Manpower to Succeed

More cause for confidence is the fact that Miller Electric has a strong company culture and invests heavily in training and safety, both of which help rather than hinder growth.

“Our people are and will continue to be our greatest asset,” says Jason Tagge, Executive Vice President for Miller Electric. “I’m confident that together we will make 2020 another positive year for ourselves and our clients.”

As far as we can see, the outlook for 2020 is bright, because we are privileged to wire hard-working, innovative businesses that are growing and thriving right here at home. The key to our continued success will be to keep getting the job done right the first time, on time and within budget for each and every one of them.