Get Ready to Vote

Baby & GTraditionally August is hot, humid, the vacation month, the yellow-cone-traffic-jamb-detour season; long weekends; yard work; painting; planning; fixing. It’s a busy time for everyone especially the construction industry. Is it as busy as it should be; needs to be?

By this time we know who is running for the presidency and what they are saying they will do. It’s not only the presidential who are trying to convince us they are what we needs it’s also people running for congress the house and the senate.

I recently received a press release from the Associated Builder and Contractors, ABC, which I would normally have run as a new item but because November is approaching faster than the end of summer I thought I’d share it with you now.

Construction Labor Force Shrinks, Job Numbers Flat

Labor Market Dynamics Cause for Concern

Despite a broader U.S. labor market rebound in June, the construction industry failed to add jobs for a third consecutive month, according to an analysis of today’s U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The construction industry’s employment level remained essentially unchanged in June.  

While nonresidential specialty trade contractors collectively added 3,700 net new positions, nonresidential builders shed 1,300 positions, and heavy and civil engineering contractors reduced staffing levels by another 3,900. Residential builders trimmed their employment total by 2,400 in June, while residential specialty trade contractors added 4,700 positions. 

“The construction industry unemployment rate declined to 4.6 percent in June from 5.2 percent the previous month, but not for the right reasons,” said Anirban Basu, ABC’s chief economist. “The overall national unemployment rate rose in June as labor force participation edged higher. However, the size of the construction industry labor force shrank. This may be an indication that as other segments of the U.S. economy continue to add jobs, a growing number of construction workers and construction jobseekers are shifting to other industries.  There are many implications associated with this pattern, including relatively faster wage growth despite the recent flattening in nonresidential construction spending. 

“As has been the case for many months, the most significant sources of weakness in construction activity and hiring relate to public spending,” said Basu. “Despite the passage of a federal highway spending bill late last year, heavy and civil engineering contractors, many of whom are engaged in work on roads and bridges, have been trimming employment. Not only did this segment shed jobs in June, but employment in this sector is slightly less than it was a year ago.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported this morning that the nation added 287,000 net new jobs in June, led by job growth in leisure, healthcare, professional/business services, retail and finance. The information sector also added jobs as striking Verizon workers returned to work. Given the recent rise in oil prices, construction industry stakeholders may be speculating that some workers may have left the industry for the energy production sector,” said Basu

Employment_7_8_16 Employment_Chart 2 7_8_16There are only days left until the election. The presidential election is important but so are all the elections. Take time to understand what the representatives you vote for stand for; believe in; support.

Our highways and infrastructure are crumbling; we need people in congress who understand the importance of updating, repairing, replacing and maintaining these resources.

In November VOTE, but vote intelligently.

Meet Team RUBICON

Baby & GRecently we were invited to visit a Team Rubicon exercise in Detroit. First question was, What is Team Rubicon?

Mission Statement:

Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

Team Rubicon’s primary mission is providing disaster relief to those affected by natural disasters, be them domestic or international. By pairing the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders, medical professionals, and technology solutions, Team Rubicon aims to provide the greatest service and impact possible.

Through continued service, Team Rubicon seeks to provide our veterans with three things they lose after leaving the military: a purpose, gained through disaster relief; community, built by serving with others; and self-worth, from recognizing the impact one individual can make. Coupled with leadership development and other opportunities, Team Rubicon looks to help veterans transition from military to civilian life.

On January 12th, 2010, A 7.0 Magnitude Earthquake Shook Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. Hundreds Of Thousands Were Killed, Nearly One Million Haitians Were Rendered Homeless In A Matter Of Moments.

Essential services, medical care, government agencies, clean water, were all disrupted. Images of the aftermath, of the tent cities, of the overflowing medical clinics, of the food lines, were broadcast across the world.

Two Marines, Jake Wood and William McNulty, knew they could help. Together with six other veterans and first responders, they gathered funds and medical supplies from friends and family and flew into the Dominican Republic. They rented a truck, loaded their gear, and headed west to Haiti.

When they crossed the Artibonite, the river border between Haiti and the Dominican, they crossed their Rubicon; the initial group of eight were irrevocably committed to their task of providing aid to Haiti.

And they did. They treated thousands of patients, traveling to camps deemed “too dangerous” by other aid organizations. They ventured outside the traditional scale of disaster response, focusing on those who would be overlooked untreated.

More recently…

CASE, Southeastern Equipment and Paladin Attachments joined Team Rubicon to help train new operators and clear blight in Detroit. They provided equipment and product support to Team Rubicon as part of MOBEX Motor City, a five-day training exercise that trained Team Rubicon members in damage assessment, chainsaw use and heavy equipment operation. Command, general staff and strike team training also took place as part of Team Rubicon’s largest training mobilization to date.

CASE and Southeastern Equipment provided three excavators and three skid steers to the event, and Paladin Attachments donated two grapple buckets to Team Rubicon for use in future training and disaster response operations.

“More than 100 Team Rubicon members participated in the largest training mobilization we’ve ever had,” said Jason Ferguson, deputy director of training and exercise, Team Rubicon. “Heavy equipment training remains one of our most important disciplines, and events like this provide both a safe and realistic environment for what our teams will face in disaster response deployments. We’re able to help improve real communities in the process – which is the driving force in all we do.”

The work, performed in conjunction with Motor City Blight Busters, included the clearing of trees and other debris to return abandoned lots to nature in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood.

Today the organization has more than 36,000 volunteer members; 85 percent are former military and other volunteer sponsors.

To learn more about Team Rubicon and its disaster response work, visit TeamRubiconUSA.org.

CONGRESS PASSED LONG TERM HIGHWAY BILL

Washington Report

2016 — You Will Be Living In Interesting Times

Remus  and Mill my best friends, both victims of lymphoma in 2015.

Remus and Mill my best friends, both victims of lymphoma in 2015.

By Greg Sitek

May you live in interesting times” is an English expression purported to be a translation of a traditional Chinese curse. Despite being so common in English as to be known as “the Chinese curse“, the saying is apocryphal, and no actual Chinese source has ever been produced.

The nearest related Chinese expression is “宁為太平犬,莫做亂离人” (nìng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luàn lí rén), which is usually translated as “Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a man in a chaotic (warring) period.” (1)

As you read through the 2016 forecasts in this issue you’ll notice that predictions for the coming year are encouraging because they allude to an overall improvement in the economy: GDP + 2 %(+/-),

Nonfarm unemployment 5 % (+/-); motor vehicle & arts sales kissing $94 billion; US auto production 17 billion in 2015 and 20 billion by 2017, housing starts bumping 1.4 million units (combined) and there’s more goo news. Oh yes, construction, non-residential could be up as high as 4% give or take a point.

A major legislative accomplishment was the passing of the FAST Act (“Fixing America’s Surface Transportation” Act) — a five-year, $305 billion initiative (including $207.4 billion for the federal highway program). It only too something like 10 years and 35 extensions to produce the FAST Act (I wonder if there might be a touch of sarcasm in naming this piece of legislation.)

Unfortunately Congress chose not to replenish the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) by increasing user fees (e.g., increasing the gas tax). Instead, the roughly $70 billion needed to fully fund the FAST Act and supplement the projected five-year HTF shortfall will essentially be a combination of general fund transfers resulting from savings and revenues generated by:

  • Passport revocation for “seriously delinquent” taxpayers
  • Federal Reserve Board dividend payment reduction and surplus account transfer
  • Strategic Petroleum Reserve sale of 66 million barrels of oil
  • Customs fees on airline and cruise passengers
  • Internal Revenue Service hiring private tax collectors
  • Office of Natural Resources Revenue royalty overpayment fix

While five-years of guaranteed funding is welcomed and will restore much needed near-term certainty for transportation construction programs, there is work left to do. AED and other industry organizations will continue to work with lawmakers to identify real and sustainable revenue streams to increase and stabilize the HTF for decades to come.

I remember that time before there was a six-year highway bill when we, the industry, waited for a proclamation of how much money was going to be allocated from the general to cover highway construction. It was the other time when potholes grew fasted than corn. We need a Highway Trust Fund because we can’t depend on our representatives in Washington to keep their promises and provide the funds necessary to maintain and upgrade our highways.

That aside, 2016 is also an election year. What will happen with oil prices? Or, what about gold? Silver? Interest rates? Oh they did go up 0.25% as we approached the end of 2015.

Of course there all the other concerns that we as a nation face – ISIS, terrorism, climate,, education, safety, healthcare, wages, insurance, etc. The list is endless. During an election year we are a nation in flux. Is this good? Or, is this bad? One thing for certain, it is interesting…

(1) Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_you_live_in_interesting_times)

 

Life is full of frustrations…

Remus  and Mill my best friends, both victims of lymphoma earlier this year.

Remus and Mill my best friends, both victims of lymphoma earlier this year.

By Greg Sitek

One of my frustrations is that the two proposed highways bills – House Bill and Senate Bill – are currently in the congressional blender, committee review where the differences will be discussed argued and resolved with a compromise.

While there are several variances between the House-passed STRR (Surface Transportation Reauthorization & Reform) Act and the Senate approved DRIVE (Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy) Act, lawmakers in both chambers and from both sides of the aisle are confident agreement will be reached, hopefully, in short order. The most difficult issue is the final bill’s duration and investment amounts. Some conferees are advocating for a longer authorization at current funding levels and others are urging a program size increase for a shorter time period.

Senate and House leadership are committed to disposing with final highway bill action before turning attention to the omnibus appropriations bill. Government funding expires on Dec. 1. However, with the highway program’s current authorization expiring on Nov. 20, Congress is poised to approve another short-term extension until Dec. 4.

By the time you read this a bill will be passed – Maybe.

Transportation for America says:
15 months after MAP-21 was first extended in July 2014 and four short-term extensions and $18.9 billion in general fund transfers later, a select group of House and Senate leaders met y to begin ironing out the differences between each chamber’s bill in the hopes of passing a final version within the next few weeks. So where does each bill stand on key issues?

Both House and Senate bills largely represent three (or possibly six) more years of the status quo, doubling down on today’s outdated system for investing in transportation that shortchanges innovation and leaves local communities behind.

They’re willing to back that bet with as much as $85 billion of general taxpayer funds above and beyond the expected revenues from the gas tax.

We’ve put together a handy chart comparing the two bills on 11 key provisions or priorities like funding, greater local control, transit, TIGER, multimodal freight planning and funding, and others. Though there are a handful of policy improvements, some other areas take a clear step backwards from MAP-21.

Unfortunately, there’s little chance to further improve the final bill on most of our key priorities at this point, but we are keeping a close eye on discussions in the conference committee. Stay tuned with us on Facebook or Twitter for more updates as the negotiations continue.

Well, I was hoping to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Highway Bill Year but that’s not to be. You’ll have to settle for a simple Merry Christmas and Happy New year to you and your families and friends.

Meanwhile to keep pace with things happening in the industry and to the highway bill, visit: www.site-Kconkstructionzone.com or scan (insert Site-K QR code) with your smart phone.