Construction Industry Trends: April 2020 Roundup
6 Minute Read
April 30, 2020
The impact of COVID-19 is still being felt across the construction industry – even as work ramps back up and business levels go back to “normal.” This, along with another massive infrastructure proposal and industry movements to address social injustice and foster diversity are among the stories we’re following closely this month.
House Democrats in June unveiled a $1.5 trillion spending bill that grouped a number of previous proposals together into one package. The New Way Forward bill would address everything from housing to environmental measures to broadband expansion to transportation. The transportation measures alone account for roughly a third of the bill’s total price tag, at $500 million. ForConstructionPros.com noted that House Ways and Means Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) implied that the bill would lean on bonding and deficit spending, at one point calling out President Donald Trump's own call for a $2 trillion infrastructure investment. The bill, though, could face staunch opposition from Republicans in Congress who question how the measures would be paid for and feel it is too similar to the recently proposed Green New Deal, which they have opposed for similar reasons.
The Takeaway: Both parties in Congress seem to agree that massive infrastructure improvements are needed across the nation, but little to no significant action has taken place on a large infrastructure spending bill for years as both side squabble about what measures will be included and how they’ll be paid for. Despite several different funding ideas from taxes to bonds to shifting of federal funds, this is one area where bipartisan compromise has fallen short. In the meantime, the nation’s roadways, bridges, utilities and more continue to deteriorate — often with great dangers to the public. And thousands of contractors are hoping a measure gets passed soon, as it would do wonders for their longer-range business continuity plans. Let’s hope this bill — or some variation of it can finally move the needle.
The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) released the results of a survey on Coronavirus impacts in construction it conducted June 9-17 among its members. Some interesting metrics of note: Nearly half of contractors had projects halted by owners during the pandemic, while as many as 20% had projects cancelled altogether. Even as some of that business begins to pick back up, 25% of contractors are still having issues with shortages of materials, equipment and parts. Additionally 24% of contractors report a shortage in available skilled workers. When it comes to a return to “normal business levels,” 26% say their business volume already matches or exceeds their levels of one year ago, but 30% of contractors say they don’t expect their business to return to normal for an additional six months or more. In related news, Construction Dive reported this month that several large-scale stadium projects around the country are experiencing delays and/or work stoppages due to many workers contracting COVID-19. These include the $450 million renovations of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, where 32 of the project’s 275 workers tested positive; construction of Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas (new home of the NFL’s Raiders) where 31 workers tested positive; renovations to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., where an unknown number of workers contracted the virus; and construction of the $5 billion SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. that will be home to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers NFL teams, where at least 18 workers had contracted the virus.
The Takeaway: We’re clearly not out of the woods with COVID-19 yet, and as businesses and construction sites open back up, the number of cases will continue to rise. That’s why stringent health and safety measures are going to be vital to business continuity moving forward. These include masks, social distancing, regular temperature and health checks and much more. Tracking all of these measure and results will be critical, which is why many contractors are moving to cloud-based construction technology solutions that let them tracks this data, as well as facilitate project workflows, in real time.
The tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands of officers of the Minneapolis Police Department sparked arguably the largest outcry against social injustice in recent memory, as weeks of protests erupted around the world to protest racial inequality and overaggressive law enforcement tactics. As a part of this movement, thousands of businesses ranging from large corporations to small, independently owned shops added their names to the list of those calling for positive change. This includes the construction industry, where contractors across the nation choosing to speak out on social inequality and pledge their own measures to diversify their employment ranks. African-Americans, for instance, make up 12% of the U.S. workforce, but only 6% of the construction workforce. Industry associations like the AGC have pledged to strengthen training programs and career placement for unrepresented groups in major cities. Abdur-Rahim Hameed, president of the Black Contractors Association in San Diego – one of the cities where the AGC is working closely with community groups like his, noted the agreement is a “huge step in the right direction” and will more than double the number of apprenticeship positions, such as carpenters and drywallers, at local jobsites.”
The Takeaway: Diversity and inclusion are vital to the future of construction and any positive movement to creating an equal playing field for all — no matter their race, color, sex, gender identity, religion, national origin or citizenship status, age or disability — is welcomed. However, it’s clear there is a lot of work left to do to make this a reality, so we encourage companies to press forward with their own diversity and inclusion plans. Read what Rob Painter, CEO of our parent company Trimble, had to say about standing with the Black Community to overcome racial injustices.
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