As we enter a new year - and as defined by the purists of our society, a new millennium - we'd all like to know where we're headed. What will business be like? Will inflation be held in check? Will I be able to find qualified people? How will technology affect my business? Which market sectors will deliver strong growth? To answer these questions, you should spend some time reading industry market reports. They do a wonderful job of summarizing the state of the industry and predicting future trends that will have a direct effect on your business. Here's what one market report has to say about the construction industry in the years to come.

According to a report published by FMI Corporation, the 2000-2001 U.S. Markets Construction Overview, it appears the U.S. construction industry should continue rolling along at its current levels for several more years. This prediction is supported by the fact that inflation remains low, productivity in most sectors continues to rise, and investment in infrastructure is paying off. The report goes on to reveal four primary factors affecting the future: a tight labor supply; advances in technology; increasing collaboration; and consolidation. Let's take a closer look at each of these:

A shortage of workers will continue to force employers to deal with a tight labor market. Increased salaries and signing bonuses in other industries will contribute to the shortage of college graduates in the construction field. "Job hopping" by middle management will be a major challenge for many companies. Field management positions will be especially challenging to fill. This will provide unions with an opportunity to regain some of their influence.

The Internet has the potential to significantly impact the industry. The report indicates business-to-business e-commerce will revolutionize the industry.

Collaboration is evolving into the process of choice for major providers and users of construction services and supplies. Technology and the push for shared information will reinforce the need for improved communication - within and outside the organization.

The industry continues to consolidate with a move toward larger firms that offer multiple services to their clients. However, the public investment community isn't expected to fund much more of this.

All in all, 2001 should deliver another steady year of growth for us all, so let the good times roll!