Reshaping the Construction Industry

Next week the 2017 National Craft Championships, hosted by the Associated Builders and Contractors of America (ABC), will take place at the beautiful Broward County Convention Center in Fort Lauderdale.  Prior to their trip to Florida, I was able to meet up with three of the craft trainees and apprentices from the Houston area who will be competing in the event.  Each of these competitors is sponsored by the Construction and Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF), the educational affiliate of ABC Greater Houston.  Each of them receives CMEF Training either at a CMEF sponsored college campus or at the CMEF training facility in La Porte, Texas.   Read more » about Houston-area Craft Professionals Ready to Compete in the 30th annual ABC National Craft Championships [VIDEO]

President Trump's hastily arranged ban on foreigners traveling to the United States from select countries sparked protests, invited a court fight, and helped make the case for large-scale immigration reform - even if that last result was not a consequence he intended.

During the campaign and in defending his most recent immigration actions, Trump repeatedly has made the argument that we need to know who is here and what their intentions are toward the United States. On that, he could not be more correct.

But instead of governing in precisely the way that Republicans for years criticized President Obama - issuing executive orders only to have them quickly and aggressively challenged in federal court - President Trump could seize the moment of a unified GOP government in Washington and work with leaders in his own party to enact a meaningful and lasting solution. Without giving anyone a free pass, the time is right to identify and tax those who are now living in the shadows.    Read more » about Trump's Immigration Actions Underscore Need for Reform

According to the Northern District of Georgia, a second construction company owner has been charged with conspiring to pay bribes for City of Atlanta contracts.

We previously reported that Elvin Mitchell, the owner of one of the largest minority contractors in Atlanta, was indicted for bribing city officials with over $1 million as a way to gain $10 million in City of Atlanta contracts. He pled guilty to those charges.

Now, a second contractor, “Charles P. Richards, Jr., has been arraigned on conspiratorial bribery charges for paying over $185,000 to obtain City of Atlanta contracts.”   Read more » about Games Contractors and Subs Play – Bribery 2

A proposal aimed at making it even more difficult than it already is for organized labor groups to operate in Texas is one step closer to reality. Senate Bill 13 would make it illegal in this "right to work" state for the members of certain groups to have their union dues immediately deducted from government paychecks. Under Texas law today, no person can be required to be in a union as a condition of employment. In other words, all union membership in Texas is voluntary. 

On a party-line vote this past week, the Texas Senate State Affairs Committee sent the bill to the full Senate for consideration. But in a state government controlled by Republicans, who generally support the idea, the measure still faces an uncertain future because – please excuse the cliché – the devil is in the details. Read more » about Anti-Union Measure Advances in the Texas Senate

Sheral Keller, the director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration at the Louisiana Workforce Commission (OWCA), has written an article in which she explains how worker misclassification and payroll fraud have directly harmed Louisiana employees and taxpaying citizens in past years, and how in 2017 the OWCA Fraud Unit and the Office of Unemployment Insurance (UI) plan to work together to combat these unscrupulous and illegal practices.  The article was published in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report and in the first quarter 2017 edition of 10/12 Industry Report.  The article includes numbers from the past two years:

“In 2016, the Fraud Unit investigated 790 allegations of fraud, with 20 having been referred to the Attorney General’s Office.  Successful criminal prosecutions resulted in restitution of $1,233,875 from nine employers and $391,018 from 11 employees.  While these numbers are impressive, they represent only the tip of the iceberg of the fraud committed in our state, mostly by employer misclassification.

“In 2015, audits of 1,068 companies by UI identified approximately 19,956 people misclassified as independent contractors rather than as employees (2016 numbers were not available at press time).  Consequently, the agency billed $1,496,778 in unemployment insurance taxes that employers owed based on the underreporting of $100,818,591 in taxable wages.”   Read more » about Louisiana Director of Workers’ Comp Admin Outlines Plan to Fight Payroll Fraud

Millennium Tower in San Francisco is still leaning. We called it the Leaning Tower of San Francisco in an earlier post when we explained that the tower, completed in 2011, has sunk about 16 inches after six years, two times the amount expected over the 50 year life of the project. It is leaning 2 inches.

It is built over landfill, and in an apparent effort to reduce development costs, the piers under the building do not reach bedrock. Additionally, an adjacent transit station being developed has been accused of contributing, if not causing, Millennium tower to lean.    Read more » about Leaning Tower Gains Lawsuit

Construction input costs outpace new building PPIs; more price hikes appear imminent

Editor’s note:  Construction Citizen is proud to partner with AGC America to bring you AGC Chief Economist Ken Simonson's Data DIGest. Check back each week to get Ken's expert analysis of what's happening in our industry.

The producer price index (PPI) for final demand in January, not seasonally adjusted, increased 0.5% from December and 1.6% year-over-year (y/y) from January 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  reported today. AGC posted tables and an explanation focusing on construction prices and costs. Final demand includes goods, services and five types of nonresidential buildings that BLS says make up 34% of total construction. The PPI for final demand construction, not seasonally adjusted, climbed 0.3% for the month and 1.3% y/y. The PPI for new nonresidential building construction—a measure of the price that contractors say they would charge to build a fixed set of five categories of buildings—rose 1.4% y/y. Changes ranged from 0.8% y/y each for industrial and school building construction to 0.9% for health care buildings, 1.9% for office buildings and 2.0% for warehouses. PPIs for new, repair and maintenance work on nonresidential buildings ranged from 0.8% y/y for electrical contractors to 0.2% for plumbing contractors, 2.0% for roofing contractors and 4.1% for concrete contractors. The index for inputs to construction—excluding capital investment, labor and imports—comprises a mix of 59% goods (including 5% for energy) and 41% services (including trade services, 26%; transportation and warehousing, 4%; and other services, 10%).    Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: February 6-14, 2017

The following article was written by Jennifer Woodruff, Marketing Director of ABC Houston, and originally published in ABC's BuildHoustonOnline

With the passage of House Bill 5 (HB5), there is a renewed emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The bill has been a much needed shot in the arm to re-energize the pursuit of Career and Technical Education (CTE) around the Gulf Coast region. However, with the increased demand on CTE programs comes higher material costs, subject matter expert/speaker needs, and basic equipment underwriting for ISD budgets that are already stretched thin. Currently, 22 area ISDs who represent 43 area high schools are partnered with Construction & Maintenance Education Foundation (CMEF), using the NCCER curriculum to deliver accredited craft training. Students who attend these sponsored schools get a head start on their craft training so that they are ready to enter the industry as they graduate from high school.    Read more » about Local ISDs in Need of Industry Sponsorship, Consumables and Equipment

The following article originally appeared in the February 2017 newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, now a part of FMI Corporation.  Reprinted with permission.

Milestone events, like our acquisition by FMI, prompt a period of reflection and optimism.  You look to the past for conclusions and lessons; you look to the future with expectations and possibilities.  While I was in this period of pondering, I heard Tim Cook, Apple’s highly respected CEO, on the Charlie Rose Show.  Responding to the question about Apple’s continuing ability to innovate, he said, “We will always do it. Steve [Jobs] put innovation in our corporate DNA.”

That interchange made me think harder and deeper as I looked to the past.  For the past 33 years, from a very privileged perch, I have been observing commercial construction contractors in the Greater Houston Area.  This period per statistics and records has been the most volatile in history.  Adapting to frequent, often extreme, changes has been imperative for those companies that survived and prospered.   Read more » about Leadership and Lifelong Learning – Lessons from the Past; Keys to the Future

A construction company in Washington state faces stiff fines for "numerous repeated safety violations" that reportedly "exposed workers to potential falls and other hazards at a residential construction site." The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries slapped J&I Construction with fines resulting from multiple violations. Now the company owes more than $200,000.

More from the Insurance Journal:

The three violations, each with a penalty of $42,000, were for not providing proper fall protection to three employees who were working on the top edge of a wall nearly 20 feet off the ground, and the company has been cited two other times for the same issue, according to L&I.

J & I was also cited for three repeat violations for not having a plan outlining the fall hazards on the specific job, exposing workers to unguarded wall openings that they could fall through and for not ensuring that workers didn’t stand or step on the top of a self-supporting ladder. Each violation carries a penalty of $21,000.

The company was cited for two additional repeat violations for not having railings on open-sided stairs to protect employees from falls ($5,600), and for not ensuring that employees wore hard hats where there was a danger of flying or falling objects ($4,200).    Read more » about Construction Firm Hit with Major Fine for Safety Violations

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