Exactly 42 states saw a varying degree of construction job losses between August and September, according to a new report issued by the Associated General Contractors of America.
That report shows that no region of the country was immune to a decline in construction employment, with California losing nearly 55,000 jobs last month, followed by Texas, with just under 52,000 less jobs.
Even many of the country’s smaller states saw declines, including Iowa, with 11,400 fewer jobs, and Vermont, down by 3,600 jobs.
Out of the small number of states reporting construction job increases, Virginia added 4,300, followed by 3,800 new jobs in Utah, and 2,300 jobs in South Dakota.
Although some states have seen job construction increases since the pandemic economic shutdown in March, the overall trend, according to the report, has been on the down side.
In a statement exploring the report, Ken Simonson, chief economist of the AGC, pointed to new spikes in coronavirus cases, added to revenue losses, and continued pandemic-related costs as the primary reason for the continued decline in construction employment.
“Although single-family homebuilding is gathering steam,” Simonson continued, “multifamily and nonresidential construction activity has stalled, leaving large numbers of workers at risk of losing their jobs as current projects finish up with nothing on the horizon.”
While many states in the West generally saw fewer job losses than in most of the regions, Arizona nevertheless lost 5,700 jobs; followed by Colorado, down by 6,400 losses; and New Mexico, which saw a decline of 6,800.
The AGC report also notes that the swift rolling out of the Paycheck Protection Program last spring enabled the construction industry to survive the initial fallout from the pandemic economy, while urging Washington lawmakers to extend and expand that program.
By Garry Boulard
An effort is currently underway in Phoenix to secure funding for the city’s first official Latino Cultural Center.
Late last month members of the Phoenix City Council voted to approve a final report put out by the Latino Cultural Center Ad Hoc Committee looking at the importance of the proposed center and its mission.
That report noted that Phoenix has historically had a large “Mexican, Indigenous, and Central and South American presence in the region,” with at least half of the city’s population made up of Latino residents.
The idea for building such a facility has been in the planning stage for well over a decade with vigorous discussions focusing on, among other things, where exactly the center will be located.
For its part, the ad hoc committee specifically recommended that the estimated $15 million project should be carved out of an existing brick structure at 1202 North Third Street, next to the downtown Margaret T. Hance Park.
That 24,000 square foot building was erected in 1955 and was formerly the home of the First Southern Baptist Church.
At least another 18,000 square feet, according to the committee’s proposal, will be laid out at the site for outdoor programing space.
In the months ahead, a new group called Friends of the Latino Cultural Center is expected to raise funds to get the building project underway, with the City of Phoenix also soon issuing a Request for Proposals for an expert to create a fundraising plan.
As envisioned, the center will house exhibits, live performances, workshops, and artistic events.
By Garry Boulard
Plans have been announced for an adaptive reuse of a large Macy’s store on the east side of Boulder.
Located at 1900 29th Street, the building housing the store was built in 1982 and has for years served as an anchor tenant for the larger Twenty Ninth Street mall.
Although it was not one of the more than one hundred Macy’s outlets announced for closure by Macy’s Incorporated earlier this year, the company has long been looking at a redevelopment plan for the site.
That plan calls for transforming just over 155,000 square feet of the former store into Class A office space, with an additional 7,700 square feet turned over for marketplace retail.
What is being called Boulder 29 will also include construction of a nearly 12,000 square foot addition to the store space, as well as the increased height for a part of the building from 38 feet to 51 feet, allowing for a third floor.
The project additionally will see the building of a roof deck and public plaza on the west side of the structure.
The plans for Boulder 29 have now received a tentative approval from the Boulder Planning Board, provided that the owners submit more detailed landscaping and outdoor lighting information.
The project still awaits final approval from the Boulder City Council.
By Garry Boulard
After reporting continued declines in billings for most of the summer, more architectural firms are seeing an increase in billings, according to a new survey released by the Washington-based American Institute of Architects.
With any score below 50 indicating a decline in firm billings, AIA members in September reported a 47.0 score. While that Architecture Billings is below the 54.2 recorded in the summer of 2018, it is still an improvement over the 40.0 score recorded in August.
In May the numbers had dipped to 32.0. According to one industry analysis, more than 70% of firms nationally saw their billings significantly drop between March and June of this year due to the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent economic shutdown.
By September, however, inquiries into new projects had improved from 51.6 in August to 57.2. New design contracts similarly showed a slight increase from 46.0 in August to 48.9 in September.
Regionally, the West and Midwest reported the strongest index showings at 45.6 each, followed by the South at 43.7, and the Northeast, with 41.5.
Despite the modestly improving numbers, Kermit Baker, AIA chief economist, said the latest index results show that “overall business conditions are recovering at a disappointingly slow pace.”
Continued Baker: “Other sectors may begin to stabilize in the coming months, but across the board improvement should not be expected until the economic impact of the pandemic subsides significantly.”
By Garry Boulard
Student service centers belonging to the growing Central New Mexico Community College may see upgrades beginning next year, depending upon the fate of General Obligation Bond C in the November election.
That $153.6 million bond will help fund a series of facility upgrade and construction projects on the campuses of higher education institutions, special schools, and tribal schools across the state.
Of that amount, exactly $13 million, as earlier approved by state lawmakers, will go to Central New Mexico Community College for the student service center facilities work.
Included in that work will be improvements and upgrades to those centers on the Central New Mexico Community College’s Montoya, Westside, South Valley, and Rio Rancho campuses.
But the most visually significant project will see the demolition of the existing two-story student services center on the south central main Albuquerque campus.
That facility, built more than two decades ago, is no longer functional, according to CNM President Tracy Hartzler.
The large $13 million to be allocated to Central New Mexico Community College through Bond C is second only to the $51.4 million that will go to the University of New Mexico for various facility improvements, and the $30 million slated for New Mexico State University.
Previous approved general obligation bonds for CNM have funded the renovation of the school’s Smith Brasher Hall, which houses business classes; and the Max Salazar Hall, home to the school’s math, science, and engineering departments.
By Garry Boulard
According to reports, roughly 40% of all libraries in New Mexico are still lacking adequate broadband access.
Now $9.5 million in funding for library facility upgrades across the state will be made available to address that shortcoming, depending upon the success of General Obligation Bond B in the November election.
Originally passed by the New Mexico State Legislature last winter and subsequently approved by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, the bond question is one of a package of three general obligation bonds for public facility work on the fall ballot.
What is also known as the Public Libraries Bond Issue will allocate $3 million for the state’s Cultural Affairs Department, $3 million to the Higher Education Department, and $3 million to the Public Education Department.
Another $500,000 will go directly for tribal library upgrades.
That funding will pay primarily for broadband construction as well as service upgrades at academic, public, and school libraries.
The $9.5 million bond is significantly lower than the $17.5 million originally requested to the legislature by the New Mexico Library Association, representing the state’s various libraries.
By Garry Boulard
Noting that homelessness in the U.S. has increased by more than 20% in the last five years, a new federal report is calling for a holistic approach to reducing that percentage.
The report, Expanding the Toolbox: The Whole-of-Government Response to Homelessness, focuses on a variety of factors to reduce homelessness, including the promotion of jobs and access to mental health, a focus on racial disparities, and trauma care.
As prepared by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the report notes that “despite funding increases, homelessness has gone up in most sub-group populations and within many regions of the country.”
While also calling for what it describes as “population specific programing,” as well as the “promotion of alternatives to criminalizing people,” the report particularly focuses on the rising cost of construction as a homelessness challenge, arguing that “Regulatory demands placed on developers inflate construction costs.”
Pointing to what it calls “excessive building fees” at both the county and city level, the report additionally contends that “zoning restrictions limit where and how many housing units may be built.”
“Federal, state, and local government programs should increase flexibility, encourage innovation, and focus on outcomes,” the report recommends. “Barriers should be removed for different and innovative approaches tailored to unique populations and communities.”
The Council on Homelessness report follows up on an earlier study released in February by the White House pointing to other such factors as rent controls, energy efficiency mandates, parking requirements, and maximum-density allowances as barriers to new housing construction.
By Garry Boulard
Work will most likely start early next year on the construction of a $163.8 million natural gas generation replacement unit in El Paso.
Members of the Public Utility Commission of Texas have now given their unanimous approval to what is officially called the Newman Unit 6, which will belong to El Paso Electric.
The new unit is being designed to replace three older natural gas facilities: Newman Units 1 and 2, as well as the Rio Grande Unit 7.
In a statement, Kelly Tomblin, chief executive officer of El Paso Electric, said the new unit will “use less natural gas, decrease water usage by 600 million gallons per year, and improve system reliability.”
As with the units it will replace, the new unit will provide power to consumers both in metro El Paso as well as southeastern New Mexico.
Although El Paso Electric has maintained that the project, to be built on the northeast side of El Paso, will reduce carbon emissions by 25% in the next four years, it has sparked opposition from community activists charging that it will emit carbon dioxide greenhouse gases.
Earlier this month, members of the El Paso City Council went on record stating their opposition to the project.
In a statement at the time of that vote, City Attorney Karla Nieman said it was “neither prudent nor necessary” for El Paso Electric to move forward with the project.
According to plans, the new facility will be made up of a 228 megawatt air-cooled gas generation unit and is expected to be operational by 2023.
By Garry Boulard
Nearly one hundred senior citizen facilities across New Mexico will see a variety of upgrades and new construction if state voters in November approve Bond Question A, otherwise known as the Senior Citizens Facilities Bond Issue.
The bond proposal was originally passed as Senate Bill 207 by the New Mexico State Legislature earlier this year to be put on the state ballot for November.
The bond will provide $33.3 million in facility project funding, pared down by the New Mexico Aging and Long Term Services Department from an initial price tag of $78 million for 164 individual projects.
Among the larger projects: $4.7 million for the construction of the Hillcrest Senior Center in Clovis; and the $2.8 million construction of a new center in Pueblo Pintado.
Some $3.6 million is slated for improvements to the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center in Santa Fe; and $974,000 for planning, design, and construction work at the Munson Senior Center in Las Cruces.
Another $880,000 will go for code improvements to the Crownpoint Chapter Senior Center in the northwestern New Mexico town of Crownpoint, with $359,000 for renovations to Albuquerque’s Highland Senior Center.
Bond A also proposes to fund more than a dozen senior center facility construction and upgrade projects in the Navajo Nation, ranging in amount from the $22,000 for the Baca Senior Center in Prewitt to the $1.6 million for the Mariano Lake Senior Center, 29 miles to the east of Gallup.
By Garry Boulard
The single-family home market is increasingly being seen as a bright spot for the nation’s builders, says a new survey issued by the National Association of Home Builders.
Measuring building confidence through its Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, the survey pegged contractors’ responses at a high 85. That number has increased from the 83 recorded in September.
Any number above 50 indicates that respondents feel more positive than negative about general conditions.
The index saw its low point during the first weeks of the pandemic shutdown with a score of 30. Continued home-building throughout the summer spurred an increase to 78 by August.
According to the NAHB, the September and October index results are the first time in the 35-year history of the survey that the numbers have been over 80 for two months in a row.
In a press release looking at the survey’s results, Robert Dietz, NAHB chief economist, noted that “new single-family home sales are outpacing starts by a historic margin.”
“Bridging that gap will require either a gain in the construction volume or reductions in available industry,” continued Dietz, “which is already at a historic low in terms of month’s supply.”
The index survey also showed builders in the West expressing the most confidence in the future of homebuilding at 90, followed by the Northeast and South at 82, and the Mideast at 75.
Since the sharp index decline recorded this spring, the West has consistently led the rest of the nation with the highest homebuilder confidence levels.
By Garry Boulard
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