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DETROIT-The construction industry could be on the verge of a big year, or could be a bridesmaid again in 2005. The failure of several big-ticket projects to get off the drawing board in 2004 made for a difficult year, said Jim Cole, executive vice president of Skanska USA Building and chairman of the Associated General Contractors, Greater Detroit Chapter.

He specifically mentioned the discussed-but-as-yet-not-begun three permanent casinos, Book Cadillac Hotel renovation and Michigan Central train depot redevelopment, all in Detroit. Cole was among the speakers Monday at the annual forecast luncheon of the Detroit Economic Club.

“If some of these big projects break ground, we could see some substantial growth,” Cole said. Otherwise, construction outlook around southeast Michigan should lag behind the national picture, he added.

Public school construction in the state has been running at around $1 billion a year recently. Both Wayne State University and the University of Michigan have had significant recent projects and have more forecast for 2005. However, no major manufacturing projects are expected. While residential construction should stay strong, Cole said multifamily work is on the decline.

Meanwhile, St. John and Henry Ford health systems both have $200-million projects planned. The University of Michigan is expected to spend about $1 billion over the next five years on health care systems projects.

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