In order to keep pace with demand, the nation’s construction industry needs to hire in excess of 430,000 new craft workers this year.
That’s the conclusion of a new analysis just released by the Washington-based Associated Builders and Contractors, contending that such workers are especially required at the same time that the construction industry is “powering America’s recovery and economic engine.”
Crunching numbers from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ABC analysis says the construction industry will likely see a growth rate of anywhere from 1.3% to 4.5% in the next two years.
That rate, equal to what the industry enjoyed in 2018 and 2019, means that the employment demand will required an additional 375,000 workers next year, and 479,000 in 2023.
Altogether, by the year 2023, “the demand for construction workers is projected to rise by 1.28 million,” says the analysis.
“Hiring of construction workers will be limited more by lack of qualified workers than by employers reducing demand,” the analysis predicts, while also noting that up and running construction training programs are expected to contribute to the pool of qualified workers.
The ABC analysis also notes that last year the “spread of the coronavirus and efforts to contain and limit its effect on the population had a big impact on construction activity and construction employment.”
At the same time, “seemingly paradoxically,” says the analysis, construction spending in 2020 was actually up by 4.8%.
The analysis says that paradox can be partly explained by the increased cost of building materials and labor last year.
Construction spending was also up due to the increasing number of residential projects: “The mix of residential construction was tilted towards higher-end homes, which cost more (higher-grade materials as well as being larger), but don’t require that much more additional labor.”
By Garry Boulard
Some $80 million in federal funds may be on the way to four southwestern New Mexico counties for a variety of water infrastructure projects.
Members of the New Mexico State Senate have voted in favor of legislation giving that funding to the New Mexico Water Trust Board to oversee and implement the projects.
In so doing, the lawmakers pulled the money out of the Central Arizona Project Entity where it was originally intended to be applied to a diversion project on the Gila River, which runs through both New Mexico and Arizona.
The funding was folded into the Arizona Water Settlement Act of 2004. That legislation was designed to allocate to two Native American tribes a certain percentage of developed water supply.
In New Mexico, some 14,000 acre-feet of water, under the settlement act, would be diverted for landowners on an annual basis from the Gila River.
The legislation also gave to New Mexico $56 million for construction of the diversion project. But in the years since, that funding has proved too low for a project that some analysts have said could easily cost six times that amount.
That $56 million has since been returned to Washington.
The legislation just approved in the New Mexico State Legislature would go for water infrastructure projects in Catron, Grant, Luna, and Hidalgo counties.
If ultimately signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, the legislation will also result in the appointment of a representative from the four New Mexico counties to serve on the Water Trust Board.
By Garry Boulard
A project calling for the construction of a new welding facility at San Juan College is in line for up to $650,000 in state funding.
The school has one of the most successful higher education welding programs in the state, emphasizing the basics of welding, as well as metallurgy drafting and blueprint reading.
The $650,000 is part of a significantly larger $19.5 million in capital outlay funding for San Juan County approved by members of the New Mexico State Legislature in their recently-concluded session.
Funding for the county’s individual projects is now awaiting the hoped-for approval of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
Overall, lawmakers approved more than $517 million in capital outlay projects across the state.
Lawmakers additionally approved up to $300,000 for a variety of infrastructure improvements at San Juan College, which is located at 4602 College Boulevard in Farmington.
Other higher education projects in San Juan County which may receive capital funding include the construction of Dine College’s Agricultural Multi-Purpose Center, which is slated to receive $1.1 million.
Last fall voters approved an initial $1.3 million for the school’s multi-purpose facility as a state-wide General Obligation Bond C project.
Exactly $700,000 was approved by lawmakers for the building of a fire lane, also at the Dine College, located in the town of Shiprock.
A public tribal land-grant college, Dine has three campuses in Arizona, and two in New Mexico, including the one in Shiprock.
By Garry Boulard
The anticipated federal deficit for this fiscal year is expected to be the second largest since the end of World War II, according to a new report issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The new report estimates this year’s deficit at 10.3% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. The only time that figure in the last 75 years was higher was last year, when it reached 14.9%.
Obviously, according to the CBO report, both last year and this year’s deficit is pegged to the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent national economic shutdown.
But the report notes that that the latest deficit decline from 2020 to 2021 is evidence of that the pandemic is finally weakening.
Continues the CBO report: But even “after the spending associated with the pandemic declines in the near term,” it will go up again in the next decade due to such factors as rising interest rates and the growing debt.
An additional contributor to growing deficits, notes the report, is the increase in federal spending for Social Security and Medicare, due to the aging of the country’s population.
On the positive side, the CBO says that while revenues decreased primarily due to the pandemic economy, they are expected to generally increase for the rest of the decade.
By Garry Boulard
In an effort to expand its computer chip production, the Intel Corporation has announced plans to build two new semiconductor factories in Chandler, Arizona.
The new facilities will go up on the technology giant’s Ocotillo campus, adding to the four plants that the company already operates there.
It is thought that it will cost at least $20 billion to build the new chip factories, with planning expected to launch within weeks.
Based in Santa Clara, California, Intel is the largest semiconductor chip manufacturer in the world, seeing revenues in excess of $77 billion last year.
Founded in 1968, the company also manufactures graphics chips, integrated circuits, and motherboard chipsets, among many other products.
The company has a long relationship with Chandler, building an initial two factories there in 1979 when it primarily specialized in computer memory devices.
In 2013, the company completed work on a $5 billion microprocessor plant in Chandler.
In a statement, Keyvan Esfarjani, an Intel vice president, noted that Arizona has been vital to the company’s ability to create the world-changing technology we all depend on.”
Continued Esfarjani: “This new investment will advance the ecosystem we’ve helped create in Arizona and increase U.S. semiconductor manufacturing capacity.”
The new Intel buildings in Chandler are expected to be completed by 2024.
Meanwhile, the company has also said that it will announce plans for the construction of other production facilities both in the U.S. and elsewhere later this year.
By Garry Boulard
A referendum will be held on April 6 that may finally decide what to do with the 165-acre site of the former Hughes Stadium in southwest Fort Collins.
The ballot question is asking local voters to decide if the City of Fort Collins should move to purchase the land from the Colorado State University System, and in so doing, secure it as open land.
If the measure passes, the city would then attempt to purchase the site, which has previously been proposed for new housing and commercial development, at a fair market value.
The historic stadium was built in 1968 and demolished exactly 50 years later after Colorado State University moved its football team to the newly-built Canvas Stadium on the Fort Collins campus.
A subsequent move to sell the land for $10 million to a home developer sparked controversy among residents concerned about traffic and space issues.
Two months ago, Colorado State University proposed the construction of 462 single-family homes, duplexes, and town homes on the property, along with some 200 apartment units, a large segment of which would be designated as affordable housing.
That proposal, which would also see the construction of a transit center and day care facility, would designate 70 acres of the site as open space.
Proponents of the April 6 ballot question say keeping the Hughes site open would provide a space for wildlife migration as well as a number of plant species.
Those who are urging a “No” vote on the proposal say Fort Collins is in need of more hosing, especially of the affordable kind.
Both the Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce and the Fort Collins Board of Realtors has come out against the proposal.
Those in favor of the question include the Friends of Hughes Open Space citizens group, and another organization called Planning Action to Transform Hughes Sustainably.
By Garry Boulard
A legislative proposal designed to provide funding for road, bridge, rail and waterway infrastructure projects is currently being put together in the White House.
According to reports, the proposal, which would likely include a number of climate-change initiatives, could come to Congress with a historic $3 trillion price tag.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee, said she thought new tax revenue would be needed to fund much of the coming infrastructure proposal.
“We do need to raise revenues in a fair way to support the spending that this economy needs to be competitive and productive,” Yellen remarked.
Added Yellen: “A package that consists of investments in people, investments in infrastructure, will help to create good jobs in the American economy, and changes to the tax structure will help to pay for those programs.”
The $3 trillion proposal will probably also include funding for universal broadband internet access, a green electric grid, electric vehicle charging stations, and carbon-free transportation initiatives.
According to the New York Times, the Biden Administration, in its infrastructure proposal, wants to “harness the power of the federal government to make the economy more equitable, address climate change, and improve American manufacturing and high-technology industries in an escalating battle with China.”
Some White House advisors, as well as both Democrat and Republican Congressional leaders, have suggested that instead of one large bill dealing with many policy priorities, the Biden Administration would be better off with a series of smaller proposals carrying a smaller price tags.
Those sources have additionally recommended that the President first begin with infrastructure, and nothing but infrastructure, in a move to win support from the nation’s business community.
By Garry Boulard
More than 120 acres in El Paso could see the development of a mixed-use, mostly residential community with plenty of designated park and open space.
The site in the city’s Upper Valley just to the east of Westside Drive and south of Artcraft Road is long-time farmland that would be subdivided into 437 residential lots.
Those lots would range in size between 4,400 to 6,000 square feet. Open space at the site would comprise nearly 14 acres.
What is being called the Village at Westside Crossings, would also include commercial space, with a three-phase building plan.
The spirit behind the project is El Paso developer Jose Gonzalez, owner of West Retail Real Estate, who purchased the land last summer from the Winston Group realty company.
An effort is currently underway to have a portion of the land rezoned from its current ranch-farm and planned residential designation to general mixed-use.
The project has so far received the approval of the El Paso Plan Commission, while the El Paso City Council will be soon tasked with making a final decision on the rezoning request.
By Garry Boulard
A proposal to redevelop and update a well-known former fraternity house is getting a second look in Boulder in the wake of a recent student riot.
The Marpa House, at 891 12th Street, was originally built in 1923 and for decades served as a housing facility for the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
In the mid-1970s, the building, known for its Italian and Mediterranean design style, was purchased by the Shambhala Buddhist Group, which used it as a residence until purchased for $5 million two years ago by a local developer.
That developer, John Kirkland, has since announced plans to transform the house into a property with sixteen individual residential units.
Even though those plans have won the tentative approval of the Boulder Planning Board, a new ripple was created by what the Daily Camera newspaper called an “out of control party” occurring the night of March 6.
That party saw up to 800 students engaging in vandalism and violence in the University Hill neighborhood where the Marpa House is located.
In the wake of that incident, which has since led to the arrest of several people, city officials are calling for greater administrative and oversight control in an area where the average home is listed for more than $510,000.
According to sources, that control will apply to the plans for the redevelopment of the Marpa House, with several members of the Boulder City Council wanting to take a closer look at those plans.
City officials have said that they want to make certain of the size of the project and how many people will be allowed to live at the building.
In earlier approving plans for reconverting the Marpa House, the Boulder Planning Board stipulated, among other things, that units in the facility be restricted to one person per bedroom, while also requiring 24-hour management on the site.
It is not yet known when the city council will next take up the plans for the Marpa House project.
By Garry Boulard
A rule changing the definition of an independent contractor may soon be officially discarded by the federal Department of Labor.
In the final weeks of the Trump Administration, a rule called “Independent Contractor Status under the Fair Labor Standards Act,” was published in an attempt to provide more clarity on the question of who is an independent contractor and who is an employee.
Although a final determination in the matter has not been announced, the latest move by the Labor Department is seen as part of a larger Biden Administration effort to review all labor regulations passed at the end of the Trump presidency.
More specifically, the proposed rule change would do away with what was called an “economic reality” test to determine a worker’s status as an independent contractor or employee.
The Notices of Proposed Rulemaking, then, seeks to end the Joint Employer and Independent Contractor Final Rules.
The rules, in essence, said that joint employer liability must be guided by whether an employer could hire or fire an employee; supervise the schedule and condition of employment; determine the method of payment; and maintain the employee’s work records.
The new Labor Department approach is seeking a more holistic approach to who is and who isn’t an independent contractor or employee.
In making its announcement, the Labor Department said the Trump Administration rule change was not supported by text or case law, and also fid not fully weigh the benefits as well as costs of the change.
The Trump rule change was opposed by several groups, including the Teamsters, which said “companies across the country have sought loopholes and workarounds to misclassify workers as independent contractors, which denies them proper wages and job protections as well as access to unemployment benefits.”
Opposing the new Labor Department initiative, Ben Brubeck, Associated Builders and Contractors vice-president, said the Trump rules “promised to promote economic growth in the construction industry by providing greater clarity and removing unnecessary burdens on construction industry employers.”
Comments regarding the new Department of Labor decision will be accepted up to April 12.
By Garry Boulard
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