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With less than a week before what could be arguably one of the biggest elections in U.S. history, all eyes are on the political landscape. But there are some pretty big construction stories we’re following too — from a resurgence of COVID challenges to cybersecurity to yes, even the election itself. Here’s a look at some of the biggest October headlines:
As of the final few days of October, the number of cases of COVID-19 has surged throughout the United States, with some states reaching their highest numbers of new cases during the pandemic. NPR noted that the country was averaging 72,000 new cases each day, a 41% increase in just the past two weeks. The surge is wreaking havoc on construction projects as worker illness, protective measures and lack of additional federal and state aid threatens work. Two multi-billion-dollar projects are among those affected. In Louisiana, the teams behind a $9.4 billion petrochemical complex in St. James Parish said they will defer major construction of the facility until the coronavirus has subsided or “an effective vaccine is widely available,” a company spokeswoman said. Meanwhile, a $10 billion plan by Foxconn to build an LCD electronics plant in Wisconsin, now “looks dead,” according to one of the state-hired analysts for the project.
The Travelers Companies, Inc. released its 2020 Travelers Risk Index report in October, specifically noting that an increasing number of businesses now list cybersecurity threats as their second most concerning issue during the COVID pandemic. As part of the report, less than half of the 1,200 business leaders surveyed said they had deployed hacker detection software, undergone a cyber risk assessment or come up with strategic plans to address cybersecurity. Meanwhile, 22% of businesses noted they had already fallen victim to a data breach. Construction Dive noted that hackers are increasingly targeting construction firms as large teams working with data and disconnects between the office and field offer opportunities that hackers can exploit.
The Takeaway: This is yet another reason construction firms should consider modernizing their operations and putting connected, cloud-based software in place that reduces data breaches and helps mitigate cybersecurity risks. Generally, storing data and working in the cloud is safer than with on-premise software that consistently needs updating to provide the latest security protections. Modern platforms have some excellent security tools built-in, but they are only effective if deployed properly, so leveraging secure configuration expertise is also paramount for successful implementation.
A recent survey conducted by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers’ Construction Sector and highlighted in an Oct. 21 ForConstructionPros.com article noted that construction-related layoffs and furloughs during the COVID pandemic have been largely minimal — especially compared with other industries. Of the companies surveyed, 60% did not lay off any of their workforce, while 74% furloughed none of their workforce. Of those companies that did furlough or lay off employees the numbers were generally less than 10%.
The Takeaway: This is good news for both construction companies and their workforces. Still struggling with challenges to replace skilled workers lost in the mid 2000s recession, it would seem contractors are much more hesitant this time to lose valued workers. Technology is also helping construction HR departments — both allowing workers to more easily transition to new roles or working environments and helping contractors better recruit, onboard and train new employees faster.
With less than a week before the election, here’s a good breakdown — provided by Construction Dive — on where presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden stand on issues related to construction. Construction Dive contracts Trump and Biden on a number of issues, including the federal minimum wage, infrastructure spending, diversity training in the workplace, job creation and immigration.
The Takeaway: Construction Dive provides a great breakdown of the candidates’ positions. It’s interesting to see which issues they’re essentially in line with each other on (federal wages and infrastructure spending, for instance) and which issues they’re far apart on (immigration, diversity training). No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, make sure you vote Nov. 3!