From 2010 to 2011, the overall market construction activity for projects Berghammer bid on went up about 7 percent and industrial activity increased more than 15 percent. So far in 2012, industrial has continued to trend upward, Parks said.
"There's more activity, definitely," he said. "I don't know if it's 20 percent, 30 percent, but it's not 2 percent."
The company has four manufacturing projects underway and is talking to five other potential customers. Berghammer will finish a 75,000-square-foot facility for Gauthier Biomedical Inc. in Grafton in July, recently broke ground on a 105,000-square-foot building for Ellsworth Adhesives in Germantown and is working on an addition to Dynamic Tool & Design Inc. in Menomonee Falls.
Berghammer is also wrapping up a project for Italian food packaging manufacturer Seda International Packaging Group SpA in Mount Pleasant.
Many companies have held back during the recession, but now have strong balance sheets, Parks said.
"They just can't do it anymore—they've got to expand," he said. "Even in recessionary times, there's an economic engine that needs to be fed."
Project size has also increased to between $5 and $7 million over the last two years, versus $3 to $5 million three years ago.
A low vacancy rate has driven some of the demand for new facilities and even some speculative building this year, he said.
"We're getting to the point where the good space has been absorbed, so that's helping," Parks said. "I think there's still a strong attitude, and this is unique to Milwaukee…that a lot of businesses still like to own their real estate."
Parks expects manufacturing construction activity to continue on an upward trend into 2013.