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Looking at Winter as an Opportunity, not a Headache

Winter is another of Mother Nature’s disruptive acts. It, too, will pass, so you might as well take advantage of it while you can.

Mon October 24, 2016 - National Edition
Giles Lambertson

“Thank goodness, here comes winter!” Any building or site prep contractor who utters such heresy must either suspect his fleet of equipment is about to quit running anyway or he lives south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Winter often is the curse of outdoor construction, not its savior. Temperatures dip and pouring concrete and laying asphalt become risky exercises in adapting materials to the cold. The ground freezes and refuses to be pliably shaped and scooped by blade or bucket. Equipment engines balk. Fire buckets can't keep framers' hands warm enough to grip a hammer.

What to do? Some of the easiest transitions for contractors with heavy equipment are well known. Dirt moving machines are contracted out on a seasonal basis to move snow from parking lots. Trucks and skid steer loaders are rented for use in winter landscape projects or livestock yards. Highway departments sign up contractors to help with highway clearing after storms.

Some contractors turn well-equipped shops into heavy equipment service centers for local governmental units and smaller contractors. While this sometimes competes with equipment dealers, it also helps contractors stay solvent so they can buy and rent new equipment from those same dealers.

Some northern contractors go south for the winter. That is, they seek short-term contracts in warmer climate zones, keeping their equipment and crews busy by transplanting them. The logistics of doing seasonal work outside a natural market area are tricky, but they actually favor smaller companies that can more easily pick up and move.

It all comes down to taking advantage of opportunities. When Hurricane Matthew played havoc with some Southeastern coastal areas, contractors in the affected area didn't moan about the unfairness of Mother Nature disrupting their work schedule. They adapted, taking on clean-up jobs in lieu of conventional projects stalled by high waters.

Winter is another of Mother Nature's disruptive acts. It, too, will pass, so you might as well take advantage of it while you can.

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