Gleeds is targeting a major push into the US in the coming three years which will make the country second only to the UK in terms of workload carried out.

The firm has six offices in the US, with its headquarters in Atlanta, where it concentrates on energy, infrastructure and real estate schemes mainly on the east and west coasts as well as in Texas.

Global chief executive Graham Harle said the US currently accounts for less than 10% of the firm’s global business but added he was looking to get this up to 20% by 2026, putting it only behind the UK at around 50%.

Part of the expansion drive is expected to see more US offices open and Harle admitted: “There are big opportunities in the US, a lot of our focus will be on there.”

He is due out in the US later this month to firm up proposals as part of an initiative to grow global income next year by around 15%. US jobs the firm has worked on in the past include a new terminal building at JFK Airport in New York and the headquarters building of tech firm Arm Holdings in San Jose, California.

Gleeds’ worldwide turnover this year is expected to rise 15% to £267m while UK revenue is set to be around £145m from last year’s £130m.

Harle said issues around inflation had softened but interest rates continued to be a headache with developers having to pay more money to fund schemes.

He added that although not exposed to the UK residential market, housebuilders’ ongoing woes were also hampering the economic outlook. “It affects the feel-good factor for a lot of people in the country.”

Gleeds is also looking at work at Canary Wharf as the estate adjusts to the loss of several key tenants with both law firm Clifford Chance and bank HSBC announcing plans to relocate to the City in the past year.

“They’re looking at life sciences, more residential and hotels,” Harle said of the wider plans at Canary Wharf.

The firm is also working on a commercial and contract management role on the first phase of HS2 between London and Birmingham. Harle said it was not involved in the second phase of work between the West Midlands and Manchester which was ditched earlier this month by prime minister Rishi Sunak.

But he admitted: “I’m very disappointed by the Manchester leg being cancelled, it always is disappointing when large infrastructure programmes get delayed or cancelled.

The Elizabeth line is the best metro system I’ve been on in the world. It’s stunning what we can achieve.”

He admitted that he hadn’t completely given up on phase 2 of HS2 coming back at some stage. “In my head, it’s paused. I’ve not written it off. I think it will happen at some point.”

The firm currently has close to 2,800 staff worldwide – including 1,300 in the UK – and Harle said he was expecting the number of people at the business to go up by between 10% and 15% in the coming year.

First published in Building on 18/10/2023

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Graham Harle Chief Executive Officer

Graham Harle
Chief Executive Officer