Three actions are necessary to build a thriving, profitable and durable construction industry:

  • Acceptance.  Recognize current situations and challenges and accept they are real.
  • Leadership.  Embrace core values and principles as innovators and leaders.
  • Solutions.  Collaborate among owners, contractors and workforce for solutions.
What challenges is the construction industry facing?  What principles, like sustainable value and social responsibility, should industry leaders embrace?  Where will the solutions come from?

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 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

The following article originally appeared in the February newsletter to clients of Kiley Advisors, now a part of FMI Corporation, for the purpose of providing the latest leading indicators and industry issues to those clients.  Reprinted with permission.

Houston managed to squeak through 2016 with a net job growth of 14,800 jobs. For what many economists have stated is the worst recession to hit Houston in decades, that is a major achievement for our region and a testament to the diversification of our city.

Thanks to our ever-growing Port of Houston and Texas Medical Center, and the heavy industrial boom on the east side of town, Houston was buffered from a more severe downturn. However, companies were also quicker to act. Right-sizing and making the difficult decisions early. Breaking the bone to ensure it resets itself right the first time.   Read more » about Houston’s Monthly Metrics: February 2017

Through their various trade associations, construction executives from all over Texas are letting state lawmakers know what they think about issues that impact the industry. The Texas Construction Association, the Associated Builders and Contractors of Texas, and other groups have compiled lists of reforms and proposed changes to state laws that they hope will be enacted during this legislative session. As you may know, the Texas Legislature only meets in regular session for five months every two years. 

There are some fairly complex policy questions involved, which is part of why lawmakers must first hear from those who are directly affected before any changes can be made during a limited time frame. 

This past week, I had the honor of speaking to contractors gathered in Austin for the Texas Construction Association’s bi-annual Walk on the Capitol. I've been pleased to be part of this great event for three legislative sessions in a row. This session, the TCA has prioritized reforms to the state’s lien laws, worker misclassification legislation, and other things.    Read more » about Construction Executives Weigh in on Issues at the Texas Capitol

Employment rises in January; spending slips in December; recent pay trends are mixed

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.

Nonfarm payroll employment in January increased by 227,000, seasonally adjusted, from December and by 2,343,000 (1.6%) year-over-year (y/y), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported today. The unemployment rate inched up to 4.8% from 4.7% in December. Construction employment (6,809,000) increased by 36,000 from the upwardly revised December total to the highest level since November 2008 and rose by 170,000 (2.6%) y/y. Average hourly earnings in construction increased 3.2% y/y to $28.52, or 9.7% higher than the average for all private-sector employees ($26.00 a y/y gain of 2.5%).   Read more » about AGC's Data DIGest: Jan. 30-Feb. 3, 2017

It is a game almost older than dirt, a “table stakes” game. Every contractor or sub has been tempted to play the game at one time or another to win a project. It is commonly known as “the grey bag,” or “this is the way it is played here,” or “I know that you are not the lowest, but…” or “if you will hire this consultant on the project, I will guarantee that you will get it,” or “if you will hire my cousin’s company as a sub on this project or that one, then I will help you get the project.”

The legal profession knows it as “bribery” and even though it continues on projects around the country, the downside risk if you play is considerable.

Two recent examples caught our eye. The first was reported in the Houston Chronicle. It involves a former Houston Independent School Board member and Chairman who, along with his co-defendants, were convicted of “tortious interference in a business relationship, bribery, conspiracy and a violation of the RICO statutes." The game involved collusion among the trustee, a contractor and a “consultant” to block the plaintiff’s attempts to get work from the school district. The game was that in order to get work, the bidder had to hire the consultant and pay fees.    Read more » about Games Contractors, Subs and Owners Play: Bribery

An article by Johnny Magdaleno which was published in Next City last month offers reactions by representatives from the Workers Defense Project and Workforce Solutions Capital Area to a report by personal finance website NerdWallet which listed Austin, Texas as “the best place to search for a job in 2017.”

The Austin area is indeed growing its employment opportunities in technical fields with the opening of Apple’s new campus and the promised funding by Microsoft, Google, and IBM for internships for low-income job seekers and veterans through the TechHire initiative.

However, workers in the construction, restaurant, and other service industries are not all finding the same job growth opportunities.   Read more » about Austin, Texas: Best City for Job Seekers?

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