Fry’s Food, which is a part of the larger Kroger Company, has announced plans to build a modern fulfillment warehouse facility in metro Phoenix.
Although the exact location of the planned warehouse has not yet been released, the facility is expected to cost roughly $89 million to build and will measure nearly 223,000 square feet.
As planned, the warehouse will be equipped with artificial intelligence robots, an increasingly visible component for many of the nation’s largest fulfillment center operations.
The project will be done in a partnership with the Hatfield, England-based Ocado Solutions, which specializes in fulfillment center technology.
In a statement, Gabriel Arreaga, chief supply chain officer for Kroger, said the new fulfillment center is of a piece with Kroger’s effort to “accelerate the expansion of our national network to redefine the customer experience.”
The new Phoenix facility is one of nearly two dozen such warehouses that Kroger is planning to build nationally in the next several years.
Work on the Kroger/Fry’s Food facility is expected to begin later this year with a likely late 2022 or early 2023 completion date.
As a division of Kroger, Fry’s Food is headquartered in Tolleson, Arizona, and has a particularly strong presence in the state with up to fifty locations.
By Garry Boulard
A new U.S. Census report is showing that women professionals have more than tripled their percentage in the engineering industry and related fields in the last four decades.
According to the report, authored by two Census Bureau statisticians, only 8% of the nation’s science, technology, engineering and math workforce, otherwise known as STEM, were comprised of women workers in 1970.
But that number has climbed to 27% as of 2019, the last year for which statistics on the subject are available.
While STEM jobs account for only 5% of all occupations in the U.S., continues the report, “they play an important role in American’s innovative capacity and global competitiveness. They are our engineers, medical scientists, sociologists and informational security analysts.”
Altogether, according to the most recent estimates, there are now just under 11 million people in the country working in STEM occupations.
The engineering component in STEM work is seeing women increasingly working as both architectural and engineering managers.
But while the overall percentage of women in STEM job has seen a steady increase in recent decades, the numbers in the strictly engineering field since the 1970s have only risen from 3% to 15%.
Much larger increases for women employees were seen in the fields of math, where their numbers have climbed to 47%, and in the physical sciences, with 45% of all workers now made up of women.
But while earning more than their non-STEM counterparts, women in STEM jobs still tend to make less than men.
The Census report indicates that as civil engineers, women on average make around $75,000, while men in the same field are closing in on $100,000.
Similarly, in the architectural and engineering management field, women come in at about $140,000, with men earning just under $150,000.
By Garry Boulard
In a city that has seen a significant amount of new hotel construction in the last two years, a new project may appeal to travelers looking for more of a neighborhood-type experience.
The U/R Design firm, based in Fort Collins, is spearheading a project that will see the reconversion of two existing houses in the historic Old Town section of the city into a single hotel.
What is being called the Flats on Mulberry Street will transform the more than 75 year-old two-story brick houses into a hotel with a total of 14 rooms, including kitchen space.
The repurposing project site is located at the southeast corner of W. Mulberry Street and S. Howes Street on the southwest side of Fort Collins in a neighborhood populated with stately two and-three story residential structures mostly built during the early 20th century.
The project will include interior work transforming the two houses’ rooms into hotel units, the installation of outside ornamental railings, and string lighting between the two structures attached with matching masonry.
Plans for the project include bike space, with parking offered on-site, and from spaces leased from the nearby First Presbyterian Church, located at 531 S. College Avenue, half a block away.
The project is currently going through the City of Fort Collins’ planning approval process.
U/R Design stands for “urban rural” design, a firm specializing in commercial and residential design work.
By Garry Boulard
A move to create a historic district in downtown El Paso, which could provide tax credits for the renovation of certain buildings, has met been met with the opposition of owners of properties within the proposed district.
The defined district would encompass 144 acres and include some of the city’s most historically significant buildings, many designed in the Art Deco style of the early last century.
The district designation, taking in 262 individual buildings, would then be placed on the National Register of Historic Sites. With that designation, property owners could qualify for just under 50% of the costs of renovating any historic building within the district.
But what may have seemed like an appealing offering to some, has been regarded as a new form of bureaucracy to others as more than 100 property owners within the proposed district have told the Texas Historic Commission that they are opposed to the creation of the district.
Those property owners say the creation of a historic district will see the imposition of a set of costly regulations relating to the demolition or replacement of any of the properties within its borders.
Because the property owners in opposition represent more than half of the property owners in the entire defined area, that area, by law, cannot be placed on the National Register.
But proponents of the district say they are not disheartened, noting that it is a City of El Paso ordinance, and not a federal law, governing demolition and replacement projects within a historic district.
In response, the El Paso County Commissioners Court has now voted in favor of petitioning the city to get rid of the ordinance in question in the hope that the property owners will then drop their opposition to the historic district designation.
By Garry Boulard
Occupational Safety and Health Administration Covid-19 Violations Continue to Rise
In the last year, the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration arm has issued fines amounting to nearly $4 million for companies in violation of Covid-19 protocols.
According to a release issued by OSHA, those fines were the result of more than 300 inspections conducted by the agency, and related to a range of violations, including failure to have in place a written respiratory protection program at the worksite.
Companies were also fined for not providing medical evaluations for their employees, lacking working respirators, and failing to provide instructions on the proper uses of a respirator and/or personal protective equipment.
OSHA similarly handed out fines for companies failing to report an injury, illness or fatality related to the coronavirus, and more particularly for not recording injuries or illnesses on an official OSHA recordkeeping form.
The cumulative total of OSHA fines relating to Covid-19 were on the increase throughout 2020 as the stubborn pandemic persisted, increasing from just under $1 million in early October to $3.1 million by late November, and $3.5 million in mid-December.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, OSHA released a general guidance specific to the construction industry noting that employers should “remain alert to changing outbreak conditions, including as they relate to community spread of the virus and testing availability.”
Among the protocols consistently recommended to employers by OSHA have been the installation of physical barriers at the worksite; minimizing in-person meetings; ensuring good air flow in occupied buildings; and staggering work schedules in an effort to reduce the number of employees on a job site at any given time.
As of mid-January, OSHA has received just over 4,500 whistleblower complaints pertaining to Covid-19 violations in the workplace.
By Garry Boulard
The City of Albuquerque is asking for capital outlay funding of up to $40 million to build a long-planned soccer stadium.
The facility would belong to the popular New Mexico United soccer team, which was formed in 2018 and plays most of its games in the city’s Isotopes Park.
Team owner and chief executive officer Peter Trevisani has spoken to both state and city officials about the possibility of building the new stadium in downtown Albuquerque.
In a statement, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller described securing funding for the stadium as a “legislative priority,” adding the city officials were committed to working “closely with the state to keep the project moving.”
As envisioned, the stadium would be large enough to provide seating for up to 15,000 and could ultimately cost as much as $75 million to build. The larger stadium site may also include residential and restaurant space.
While New Mexico United’s matches have regularly attracted upwards of 13,000 to 15,000 fans, suggesting that a new stadium would be well attended, another source of support is seen in a recent survey showing 63% of respondents expressing approval of the project.
Last year state lawmakers passed legislation providing more than $4 million in support to both acquire land for the stadium and produce a design.
By Garry Boulard
The City of Colorado Springs has issued a Request for Proposals for work to begin on a long-planned channel reconstruction project.
The Monument Creek at Talemine project will see the rebuilding of a channel connected to the Monument Creek, which travels north to south through the city.
The work will more specifically take place on a channel segment at a street called Talemine Court, in a light industrial section of Colorado Springs on the north side of the city.
The reconstructed channel will measure just over 500 linear feet, with the removal of an existing storm pipe as part of the project.
The project will also see the removal of existing fencing and building of new replacement fencing, construction of a 4 foot by 10 foot concrete box culvert, and installation of new fill materials and grouted riprap.
The project is expected to have a four-month construction schedule.
The submission deadline for the RFP is set for February 5.
By Garry Boulard
Whether the Covid-19 pandemic tenaciously holds on in the months ahead or even decreases, contractors say they expect the duration of 2021 to be one of the industry’s toughest on record.
This is among the findings of a new survey completed by the Associated General Contractors of America revealing particularly pessimistic feelings regarding the lodging and retail construction segments.
The report, The Pandemic’s Growing Impact on the Construction Industry, additionally reveals that contractors in 13 out of 16 market categories expect less business rather than more in 2021.
Other categories with what the AGC defines as a “negative net reading” include higher education construction; public building construction; and K-12 school construction.
On the positive net reading side is the clinics, medical labs and testing facilities segment, expected to be up by a big 11% in the next 12 months; and the warehouse category, forecast for a 4% increase this year,
Noting the long-range impact of the pandemic, the report notes that 59% of responding firms said projects scheduled to launch last year have been postponed for some time later this year. In a separate finding, a troubling 44% reported that projects cancelled in 2020 have not been rescheduled.
“Few firms expect the industry will recover to pre-pandemic levels soon,” the AGC report continues, although around one third of the responding companies said their business had either returned to pre-pandemic levels, or exceeded those levels.
Meanwhile, a challenge confronting construction companies well before the Covid-19 onset--finding qualified workers--remains mostly unchanged.
With 35% of respondents planning to add staff in 2021, contractors say getting the right worker for the right job is still a big deal. “The unfortunate fact is too few of the newly unemployed are considering construction careers, despite the high pay and significant opportunities for advancement,” noted Ken Simonson, chief economist with the AGC.
“The pandemic is also undermining construction productivity as contractors make significant changes to project staffing to protect workers and communities from the virus,” added Simonson.
By Garry Boulard
A luxury apartment company based in Orlando, Florida has announced plans to build up to 1,600 new units in the apartment-hungry metro Phoenix market.
ZOM Living says it will spend around $500 million for construction of the new units which will partially go up on some 33 acres the company recently purchased in Phoenix.
As planned, the upscale units will measure between 800 square feet and around 1,100 square feet. Part of the land in question is located near Loop 101 and 56th Street on the far north side of Phoenix.
That site is expected to see construction of just under 750 units.
ZOM Living plans to build an additional 300 units on just under 3 acres at the intersection of Highland Avenue and 24th Street on the northwest side of the city.
The company also wants to build 749 market rate units in downtown Scottsdale, as well as 300 units in Phoenix’s upscale residential and financial Biltmore District, on the northeast side of the city.
Specializing in upscale apartment projects, ZOM currently has properties comprising some 23,000 apartment units in Florida, North and South Carolina, and Texas, among other states.
Currently the company has more than 5,500 units either under construction or in the predevelopment phase.
In a statement, Greg West, ZOM chief executive officer, remarked that the “Phoenix metro area has all the ingredients our firm looks for when entering into a new market, beginning with consistent population growth, strong demographics, and a stable labor market.”
By Garry Boulard
The multinational Sumsung Electronics may be on the verge of announcing plans to build a giant new manufacturing facility somewhere in metro Phoenix.
According to both the Wall Street Journal and the Phoenix Business Journal, the Suwon, South Kora-based company has been looking at several sites in the area for the possible construction of a new semiconductor plant.
That plant, as big as they come, would likely cost around $17 billion to build, and may more specifically go up in the Phoenix suburb of Goodyear.
The company is said to be particularly interested in a currently vacant 1,100-acre site near the intersection of Indian School Road and Perryville Road on the north side of Goodyear.
The project may qualify for benefits as a Foreign Trade Zone development, which requires that a new facility must cost at least $25 million to build and house a minimum 75,000 square feet of manufacturing space.
An FTZ designation could save Samsung tens of millions in Arizona property taxes.
Sources have indicated that Samsung may also be looking at a similar-sized site for its new facility in the town of Queen Creek, roughly 55 miles to the southeast of Goodyear.
Beyond Arizona, Samsung is thought to also be reviewing sites in the vicinity of Austin, Texas, and an area in or near the town of Batavia, New York, on the east side of the Empire State.
Samsung recently announced plans to invest upwards of $121 billion in the development of logic chips and memory semiconductors during the next decade.
It is not known when the company will announce a decision regarding the site for its new semiconductor plant.
By Garry Boulard
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