While public-sector projects still account for the bulk of billings for L.A.-area general contractors, the amount of private-sector work is growing, according to this week’s List. And that private-sector demand may soon soar, industry sources said.
“There’s a lot of private-sector deals that have been on the outside of the economic envelope, and we’re just edging closer and closer,” said Todd Whitlock, vice president at Altadena-based Charles Pankow Builders Ltd., the No. 1-ranked firm on the List of L.A.’s top general commercial and industrial contractors. Companies are ranked on the basis of their 1996 billings for work performed in L.A. County.
Pankow, which holds the top spot for the second year in a row, is working on the Metropolitan Water District headquarters near Union Station in downtown L.A., and on Arcadia Methodist Hospital.
While the firm held the top spot, its billings continued to slip in 1996. Pankow billed its clients $296 million for contracting services last year, compared to $315 million in 1995 and $327 million in 1994.
Whitlock attributes the billing dip to the industry’s cyclical nature.
“It’s not like we’re selling a manufactured project and saying, ‘Gee, consumer interest is down.’ There are so many variables. If all the projects are completed, we’re kind of in between cycles.”
Another company “in between cycles” is Pasadena-based Kajima Engineering & Construction, which slipped from the No. 2 position last year to No. 9 this year.
Charles Blenkhorn, manager of development and construction services at Kajima Engineering, said the company’s slide is a result of “winding up four or five projects that are coming to an end.”
Taking over the No. 2 position is Tutor-Saliba Corp. of Sylmar, which moved up from the No. 3 slot last year by increasing its billings to $291 million, up from $210 million in 1995.
Kajima Engineering, which is working on the Hollywood and North Hollywood Metro Red Line subway projects, billed $103 million for contract work a year ago, sinking to less than half the $249 million it billed for contract services in 1995.
Charles E. Harger, senior vice president at Kajima Construction Services Inc., Kajima Engineering’s sister company and No. 5 on the List, concurred that public-sector projects in L.A. are “slowing down,” while projects for private-sector clients, especially distribution companies, are picking up.
“The industrial sector is strong, the distribution sector is strong,” said Harger. “Thirty-five percent of our work in Los Angeles County is industrial.”
Kajima Construction in Monterey Park is building a project for Kraft Foods, and it has been selected to build the controversial Belmont High School project near downtown L.A.
Kajima Construction Services is new to the List this year. There are two other newcomers: No. 21-ranked Taslimi Construction Co. Inc., and No. 22-ranked Howard Building Corp.
Of the 22 companies from last year’s List that reappear this year, only six suffered a decline in local 1996 billings compared with 1995. The other 16 all reported an increase in business.