Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read February 2021 —Broward County’s rich diversity in terms of construction projects and pipeline is an indicator of the long-term resilience of construction companies looking to diversify their project portfolio. Bob Moss, chairman and founder of Moss & Associates, shares his insights into Fort Lauderdale’s construction sector, where the demand is and the unique business opportunities offered in Broward County.
What project type attracted the lion’s share of demand in 2020?
While Fort Lauderdale continues to offer diverse opportunities in the construction industry, including multifamily as well as institutional and transportation projects, Moss saw a surge of demand in the solar energy sector in 2020. We are now into the solar farm building business, which showcases significant demand, and we believe that demand will continue not only for Broward but on a national scale. A large portion of it is in the state of Florida and we are building solar farms for multiple utilities based in the state. It has proven challenging because this type of project requires a lot of on-site workers. We tackle the engineering, procurement and construction portions of the project.
What COVID-19-triggered changes in the construction industry do you see prevailing post-pandemic?
Smart contractors have done what we’ve done: be aggressive on safety and security and aggressive on protecting employees on our job sites. Hopefully, the virus goes away in 2021 with the vaccines made available. Overall, we don’t believe the pandemic will have a long-term impact on our industry, although it surely has had a sizable short-term impact that caused us all to scramble and figure out how to work safely.
What unique business opportunities does Broward County offer to the construction industry?
Broward County’s diverse landscape of opportunity mirrors our capacity to work on a wide array of different assets. We just concluded a major, $300 million expansion of Fort Lauderdale Airport’s Terminal 1. We built multiple high-rise rental apartment projects throughout 2020, coupled with Port Everglades’ largest project, a large turning notch for Panamax ships.
What would you credit as the bedrock of your company’s resilience during economic downturns?
During the 2008-10 crisis, we had a $1 billion pipeline of work that went away as the money to finance them went away. The smartest thing we did was not laying off any of our A-players, those who make a difference for our company and our work. All of them are still here. We weathered that storm throughout a not-so profitable time frame. We were prepared to invest in brain power and that’s what we did. We knew the economy would come back eventually. By 2011, things turned around drastically and every year since then has been a record year for our company, up until 2020. Nothing is more important than having significant diversity, regardless of your line of business. There are cycles in almost everything that we build and as long as you have smart people who can move from one type of project to the next and execute them well, then you do well. We’ve done over 30 different kinds of projects. Smart people and a consistent volume of project diversity go a long way in securing long-term resilience.
How has the pandemic impacted the construction industry’s tight labor pool challenge?
The labor pool was tight before COVID, so I don’t think the pandemic has exacerbated it. If anything, over the past year, people became more aware of how essential construction is to the economy. The real impact stems from the fact that a considerable portion of construction industry professionals are exiting and construction companies are having a hard time attracting young people to this industry. It’s a hard-working, dangerous industry, no doubt. To some high schoolers, it’s not very attractive. Those willing to work hard, study and improve their skills can make a substantial living as a high-quality craftsman and craft supervisor. The opportunities are really good.
It’s also becoming an increasingly visible subject as more schools are encouraging it. We do interface with several organizations that bring out students and introduce them to the various traits of the industry. We make a point of being proactive in that effort and recruit them. We are also highly active within FIU’s School of Engineering with the Moss Department of Construction, Infrastructure and Sustainability. Several students work their way through that program, many of whom work for us. We sponsor quite a few of them to help them get their degrees.
What is your near-term outlook for Moss & Associates and Broward County’s construction industry?
2020 was a record year for our company. Based on the commitments we have, we’re fully expecting 2021 to be another record year for our company, in excess of $1.5 billion in revenue. It creates opportunities for our people. Admittedly, some areas of construction entered a bit of a slowdown and our teams are in the middle of figuring out what to do next, especially as it relates to hotels and office buildings. Florida is always going to be a place where people want to vacation, spend money and rent hotels. We tirelessly work to be the ones building those sites and we will continue to do so.
Being in business in this area is a fortunate thing. There’s a good supply of opportunities, albeit too many competitors. We continue to get our fair share and we are pleased about that. The way to accomplish that is to execute effectively, be nice to work with and honorable. We do all of those things well.
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