At the start of the economic recession in 2008-09 work slowed at the Northwest Pipe company, which manufactures pipe in Denver.
Then in 2010, the contracts for the massive $841 million Southern Delivery System project started dropping, said John Moore, Northwest Pipe operations manager. Colorado Springs Utilities was building a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs.
"When it dropped, we went from hanging on, hibernation mode, to Pueblo and production," Moore said. "At the apex, we had 235 people employed working two shifts. For us it meant business was up."
Utilities has hired 380 businesses in Colorado to plan and build the pipeline and water treatment plant, spending an estimated $489 million on contracts in the state. Of that, Northwest Pipe won $110 million in work.
The company made four to five pipes a day. In all it manufactured 7,000 pieces of pipe for the project. Beyond the direct contracts, there was a ripple effect, Moore said.
"Anytime you have a project this size, you are coordinating with suppliers and trucking companies," Moore said. For example, during peak production, as many as 25 trucks a day left Northwest Pipe's manufacturing facility. "We used local suppliers - the truck company was local."
"The other thing that might be missed in the number is that most of the people who work on these crews putting the pipe in, there is a lot of inspection required, people making sure they are doing things right," Moore said. "We have reps coming in, there is a huge travel industry associated with this project in rental cars, hotels and air travel."
There is about one mile of pipeline left to complete in the project. Then Northwest Pipe will be done and moving on to water projects in Texas and other states, Moore said. The company has nine manufacturing plants across the country.
"Across the country, water infrastructure is getting old - water pipes are getting old," Moore said.