Construction industry emerging from pandemic.

A year after the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the U.S. and South Carolina, plunging industries including construction into uncertainty, contractors are expressing relief at how they've come through it in some cases, with record backlog.

"We're still afloat," said Paul Mashburn, CEO of Mashburn Construction, headquartered in Columbia with offices in Charleston, Greenville and Myrtle Beach. "It's been quite an adventure, for us as a construction company and certainly as a community and a nation to go through what we've been through."

While Mashburn's backlog, or the dollar amount of work the company is contracted to perform in the future, is "the highest it's ever been" going in 2021, Mashburn said, that doesn't mean the contractor behind such high-profile Columbia projects as Market on Main, Hotel Trundle and new Main Street restaurant Smoked emerged unscathed.

"Our company probably lost $40 to $50 million in projects that were set to start in Q2 or Q3 of 2020," Mashburn said. "That was several hotels, amenities centers, one hospital project, and a restaurant. They all either delayed and pushed starts until this year or they scrapped the project completely and put it on a shelf. As a company, our revenue was impacted by about 30%."

Mark Hood, president and CEO of Columbia-based Hood Construction, said his company also saw "quite a few" projects put on hold in March and April of 2020, though about 70% of those are under construction now.

"We still had a really good year in spite of that," Hood said. "There's been other things to backfill. Where there's a loss on one side, there's a pickup on the other. And most of the people that I know in the commercial construction business are busy."

That was evident on a recent afternoon at the BullStreet District as ground was broken on that development's latest project, a 79,000-square-foot, mass-timber office building slated to open next April. The mixed-use, five-story WestLawn building will be home to Columbia law firm Robinson Gray Stepp & Lafitte as well as retail tenants.

"Every market sector didn't really thrive, but the commercial market sector stayed alive," said Ben Barfield, vice president of WestLawn contractor Brasfield & Gorrie, based in Birmingham, Ala. "I think a lot of people were trying to figure out how to revamp their spaces. We have built several office buildings during this market, but it's incredible to see this one right now.

This has got a full tenant that's moving in and...

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