CIF President Frank Kelly on why a thriving construction industry enables thriving companies

by | Jul 4, 2022

When you look through the construction companies included in this year’s Top 50 list, one thing that hits you is the ‘scale’. Seeing how these companies have grown. Understanding where they came from. Recognising the difficult periods they have managed. All to reach a significant level of scale.

To reach their places on this list all of these companies have had to be successful. However just as importantly they needed an industry that was growing with them. A thriving construction industry enables thriving companies. Which is why there is a lot to be very positive about at present. There are many measures in various stages of progress which should provide further benefits to Irish construction.

Programmes like the National Development Plan (NDP), Housing for All, the Government’s retrofit scheme – they are all hugely ambitious and involve a major investment of capital into our sector. They also come with challenges. For example, there are issues with regard to the visibility of projects under the NDP which is proving frustrating for many companies.

Everyone in the country knows how critical the delivery of housing remains, yet are we doing all we can to allow residential projects to be realised efficiently? Is the infrastructure being put in place to support it? What about addressing the zoning of land within county  development plans?

We all know that construction does not take place in a vacuum, successful projects are dependent on so many other factors, factors which every company, including those in this edition, will be very keenly aware of. Another significant factor impacting on the whole sector at the moment is inflation.

Irish construction has been experiencing inflationary problems for more than a year now, but it has reached a whole new level since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine. The CIF has been prominent in highlighting this issue and thankfully the Government has responded. However, how the new burden sharing system covering up to 70 per cent of increased costs works in practice remains to be seen and some will wonder if it goes far enough given the surge in material prices.

There may also be ramifications for the capital expenditure programme. On the more positive side, there are some early signs that price increases are starting to stabilise, but as we have already witnessed this year, the medium to longer term will be subject to world events. Those world events are also having a further impact of the macro-economic picture, with rumblings coming from Europe about interest rate increases and even the dreaded word of ‘recession’ being whispered.

While at the same time every construction company in the country seems to be looking for additional staff as we all react to the ongoing growth and demand for the type of quality construction delivered by the companies included in this edition. Challenges are not a new concept for our sector. That is one of our great strengths. We have seen the tough times before.

This is why most of the companies listed this year are among the titans of our industry, both at home and abroad. They can overcome the hurdles and know how to get business done even in difficult circumstances. They can weather the storms. They have overcome economic downturns, changing needs and even a pandemic.

The success of these companies and their impressive scale is proof that there is always a golden sky lying just beyond any clouds on the horizon. Thankfully with all the proposed programmes and need for construction activity we can all see plenty to look forward to.

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