Build, Build, Build: Atlanta’s Construction Sector Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

First published by Capital Analytics, Focus: Atlanta 2021

Chris Bontrager, Business Unit Leader, Georgia, DPR Construction
Atlanta Business Unit Leader, Chris Bontrager, shares insight about Atlanta’s construction sector and the challenges and successes they face. Courtesy of DPR Construction

How has demand for your services changed over the past year and what trends are you preparing for?

Nationally, our life science market, given the pandemic and the investment in vaccines and therapeutics in general, has taken off. Locally, advanced manufacturing has seen a significant uptick as companies are moving their supply chains back domestically from overseas. Data centers are another fast-growing area in the Atlanta region. Georgia has made significant investments in fiber infrastructure, combined with affordable power and land costs, the Atlanta metro has become the technology hub of the East Coast. We’ve been able to leverage our resume as one of the top data center builders in the country to take advantage of the opportunities in the local market. We’re seeing many major corporate clients relocate from the West Coast and the Northeast to Atlanta or Nashville. With the influx of companies moving into Georgia, corporate offices are strong despite the pandemic.

What is a key challenge the industry is facing?

The biggest challenge is finding great people. There are not enough professionals to supply the need in the marketplace. As an industry, we’re supporting local high schools and technical schools to educate the next generation about opportunities in construction and dispel some of the misconceptions that exist about career opportunities in the business. There is great demand for labor and project management and field operations personnel within our industry, so we’re working to fill the labor gap that exists by educating the future workforce.

What are the most pressing infrastructure needs?

Atlanta is transitioning toward becoming a true urban environment. With COVID, we’ve seen a push back out into the suburbs. I’m curious about the long-term and how that’s going to play out. In Atlanta, honestly, the need for water and sewer infrastructure is a big deal, probably even more so than the highway and the transportation aspects. Of course, mass transportation is another issue as the push for in-town living in multi-family buildings continues.

What do you think about the supply chain issues and shortages?

This is a short-term problem. Not knowing how the pandemic would play out, many companies decided to stop production or stop carrying inventory. Then the economy came back much faster than anyone predicted so there’s a lack of production and supply. We’ve seen a rush of manufacturing coming back domestically. That’s a positive, but it’ll take two to three years for it to have an impact on the local supply chain.