Although construction employment nationally remains below where it was before the Covid-19 outbreak, 31 states, along with the District of Columbia, saw new construction jobs this fall.
According to an analysis of the latest Labor Department job numbers by the Associated General Contractors of America, Texas saw the largest construction employment increase from October to November, with more than 7,500 new jobs.
Pennsylvania was second up with 4,300 new jobs; followed by Utah, with a gain of 3,000 jobs, and Delaware, up by 800 jobs.
While those numbers are hopeful, they still represent an industry trying to climb its way out of a pandemic hole: looking at the seasonally adjusted figures, overall numbers remain lower than they were in February.
Comparing the final month before the Covid-19 outbreak, New York is off by 39,700 jobs, followed by Texas (despite its most recent uptick), seeing an overall construction job decline of 37,200.
Even applying the more promising autumn numbers, construction was still off in California by 5,800 jobs; followed by New Jersey, with a loss of 3,800; and Nevada, recording an October to November decline of 3,700 jobs.
In a statement, Ken Simonson, chief economist with the AGC, said an increase in “project cancellations and postponements is forcing nonresidential contractors to lay off workers as they complete projects started before the pandemic and firms exhaust their Paycheck Protection Program loans.”
Simon added that until help from Washington becomes a reality, the industry is likely to see more job losses in the months to come, “despite strong demand for single-family and remodeling.”
By Garry Boulard
A Portland, Oregon-based company has announced plans to build two industrial facilities in southern Arizona next year.
Harsch Investment Properties, specializing in multi-family, multi-tenant, office, and retail projects, says it wants to build a 563,000 square foot facility in the city of Chandler, and another 250,000 square foot project in Goodyear.
The company has not said where exactly in both cities it will build, but it anticipates work beginning on the Chandler project in March, while the Goodyear project is expected to see construction starting by the end of next year.
Harsch is additionally expanding its Arizona footprint with the purchase of the Scottsdale Airpark Commerce Center for $17.5 million.
That property, located near the intersection of East Evans Road and North 82nd Street, comprises a combined 124,000 square feet with a total of four existing buildings.
In July, Harsch announced its opening of a new regional office in Tucson. At the time of that announcement, Bill Rodewald, senior vice-president at Harsch, said in a statement: “We have looked forward to the day when our Arizona portfolio would grow to the point that justified an office dedicated to our tenants and helping them grow.”
Harsh, founded in 1950, purchased its first Arizona property in 1958.
The company currently owns and oversees some 27 million square feet of built space not just in Arizona, but also California, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.
By Garry Boulard
Shea Proctor Valley LLC, a subsidiary of the Scottsdale, Arizona-based Shea Homes, was the winning bidder on a 415-acre swath of land located in north Peoria.
The auction was held by the Arizona State Land Department, which regularly conducts auctions of state land it has acquired, with revenue from the sales going to Arizona’s elementary and high schools, as well as the state’s colleges and universities.
For fiscal 2020, the department reported $205 million in revenue, $135 million of which came from land sales.
Shea won the land, which is located near the intersection of 75th Avenue and Jomax Road, on a bid of $46.7 million.
Although Shea has not announced immediate plans for the property, the company has been successfully involved in a number of higher-end residential community projects.
Earlier this year it launched work on a community in Avondale, with 34 homes to be built in the first phase, and an additional 48 planned to begin in 2021.
The 75th and Jomax Road site is located near the Rock Springs development, where houses list for an average of $500,000 and up.
New home construction, despite the pandemic economy, seems a solid bet in Peoria, located roughly 20 miles to the northeast of Phoenix. The city is one of the fastest-growing in Arizona, with a population jumping from 108,000 two decades ago, to around 180,000 today.
By Garry Boulard
Up to $7 billion in new federal funding is a part of the sweeping $900 billion coronavirus bill on the verge of being passed by Congress.
Included in the broadband-related spending is $1 billion in grants for Tribal broadband construction, and $300 million to fund rural broadband deployment.
The legislation additionally includes $285 million for a pilot program designed to build broadband in historically black colleges and universities communities.
The broadband funding, notes Forbes, is particularly important “given how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the way we work, live, learn, and live.”
According to a recent survey of more than 10,300 people conducted by the Pew Research Center, 71% of workers this fall said they were working remotely, with the vast majority using such services as Zoom and Cisco Webex.
Some $3.2 billion is also being set aside in the bill to fund broadband connectivity for those with lower incomes.
Matt Wood, general counsel with the social media site Free Press, told the publication Broadband Communities that the $3.2 billion is a direct response to the “lack of affordable broadband choices, which is the primary factor driving the U.S. digital divide.”
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, a prime force behind the $3.2 billion move, remarked in a statement: “Ensuring working families can stay online will pay massive dividends for kids’ education, helping people find jobs, and jump-starting the economic recovery next year.”
Lawmakers have given particular praise to another segment of the massive 5,600-page bill that provides up to $1.9 billion in reimbursements for what are known as “rip and replace” efforts designed to remove Huawei and ZTE corporation equipment from US networks.
Both Huawei and ZTE, based in China, have been accused by the US government of potentially fostering espionage activity.
By Garry Boulard
Colorado Governor Jared Polis has sent a public letter to President Trump asking for the Centennial State to be selected as the permanent home of the U.S. Space Command.
“Colorado provides the existing command structure, base infrastructure, and communications platforms necessary to successfully host additional national security initiatives,” Polis said in his letter, adding that the state could also “ensure coordination of efforts without committing restrictive additional funds.”
The Governor’s pitch comes as the time nears for an announcement out of Washington regarding where the US Command headquarters will be finally located.
A high-level campaign is now underway on the part of public officials representing states whose military bases have made the finalists’ list for the Command’s headquarters.
Those bases are: Albuquerque’s Kirtland Air Force Base; the Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County, Florida; the Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska; the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama; and the Joint Base San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas.
In an opinion piece published in the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, noting the existence of Spaceport America and NASA’s White Sands Test Facility, among other high-tech facilities, said, “The Command could not find a more supportive and conducive environment for building up its new service than our state.”
An alliance between four midwestern universities - the University of Nebraska, the University of North Dakota, Kansas State University, and Purdue University - has been organized to officially lobby for the Space Command setting up at the Offut Air Force Base.
Meanwhile, the presidents of the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Southwest Research Institute, have published an essay in the San Antonio Report contending that no city would integrate better with the Command’s needs than San Antonio.
“Here, we have the resources that will offer the Space Command a blank canvas on which to build a transformative operation that will define national defense in the century ahead,” writes Taylor Eighmy and Adam Hamilton, noting the presence of San Antonio’s giant bioscience industry.
The Space Command’s headquarters is currently located at the Paterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, also on the finalists’ list.
Evaluators are currently in the process of determining which location would best serve the Space Command’s needs, looking at such matters as whether the location in question has reliable utilities, adequate roads, and a workforce that can support the command.
The location that is ultimately selected is expected to realize billions of dollars in new housing, office, laboratory, and infrastructure construction work.
By Garry Boulard
The Phoenix-based Nikola Corporation has announced that it has entered into an agreement that could see the construction of more than 700 hydrogen fueling stations across both Arizona and the country.
Nikola’s partner is the utility company Arizona Public Service. In entering into a partnership with APS, Nikola will be able to buy electricity at a lower price to power its fuel cell vehicles.
Nikola was founded in 2014 and has since introduced a series of zero-emission vehicle concepts, with plans to begin the construction of a new truck factory sometime next year.
In September the company entered into a partnership with General Motors allowing Nikola to use GM’s manufacturing facilities for the production of its Badger truck line.
That partnership, in late November, was subsequently downsized to an agreement that will instead see Nikola and GM working together to integrate hydrogen fuel-cell technology into Nikola’s semi-trucks.
In filing papers with the Arizona Corporation Commission seeking approval of the partnership with Arizona Public Service, the Nikola company said, “We believe approval of this agreement will be an economic and environmental win for all of Arizona.”
Nikola’s larger plan is to combine the cost of its semi-trucks with the cost of hydrogen fuel and basic maintenance as part of a 700,000-mile, or seven-year, lease.
Although a specific construction schedule for the new stations has not been announced, Nikola has said it would like to see its new station network entirely built out by 2030.
By Garry Boulard
After weeks and even months of inaction, Congressional leaders appear to have forged an agreement approving some $900 billion in new coronavirus aid.
“For the information of all senators and more important for the American people, we can finally report what our nation has needed to hear for a very long time: more help is on the way,” Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced from the Senate floor.
That announcement followed on the heels of a leadership conference hashing out an agreement on a weekly $300 unemployment benefit for the next 11 weeks, as well as a new round of Payroll Protection Program assistance.
In a joint statement, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said they had reached an “agreement with Republicans and the White House on an emergency coronavirus relief and omnibus package that delivers urgently needed funds to save the lives and livelihoods of the American people as the virus accelerates.”
Passage of the new pandemic legislation marks the first time since last spring that Congress has successfully approved a comprehensive package responding to the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent national economic shutdown.
The relief also includes $1.4 trillion for the continued funding of the government for the next ten months.
The actual vote on the legislation is not expected to occur until late Monday afternoon.
By Garry Boulard
A proposal to build a $163 million natural gas-fired generating unit appears certain to move forward, despite a vote by the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission disapproving the project.
The El Paso Electric company has long said that the new 228-megawatt facility is needed to respond to the growing power needs of residents in both El Paso and southern New Mexico.
But a coalition of environmental activists, among others, have questioned that need and charged that the new facility would contribute to area air pollution.
In making its decision, the PRC said that El Paso Electric had failed to take into consideration the requirements of the Energy Transition Act, a New Mexico law mandating the implementation of carbon-free power for residents of the state.
More specifically, the commission said the facility would not comply with a New Mexico state law mandating the implementation of carbon-free power for residents of the state.
According to that law, El Paso Electric would be required to provide carbon-free power by no later than 2045. The Newman 6 plant, however, which would not be carbon-free, has a projected life span of 40 years.
“We commend the PRC for protecting its ratepayers from higher costs and more pollution by requiring compliance with the Energy Transition Act,” said Stephanie Dzur, an attorney with the Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy, one of the groups opposing construction of the new facility.
The PRC vote come in the wake of an October decision by the Public Utility Commission of Texas approving the project.
Despite the PRC vote, El Paso Electric is expected to push on with its project, which it hopes to have up and running by 2023, but now only allowing the facility to serve customers in metro El Paso.
The new plant, to be built in what is known as a simple-cycle configuration, is set to go up on a 175-acre site near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the north side of the city.
By Garry Boulard
Plans have been announced for the construction of a facility that will center on one of the fastest-growing sectors of healthcare today: sports medicine.
The Banner Health system says it wants to build a $54 million sports medicine care center in Scottsdale that will comprise three floors.
Based in Phoenix, Banner Health is one of the largest non-profit health systems in the country, with around 30 hospitals located mostly in Western states.
A joint project with the Alter Group, a Skokie, Illinois-based real estate developer, the center is being seen as a comprehensive care facility providing treatment and attention for everyone from student to professional athletes.
As envisioned, the center will house physical therapy space, a surgery center, rooms for performance training, and a sports psychology department, among other features.
In a statement, Evan Lederman, head of Banner’s Orthopedic Sports Medicine program, said the Scottsdale facility will be a part of the larger overall sports medicine services Banner provides to Arizona residents.
“Athletes have unique needs related to their fitness training, injury prevention, and injury recovery,” said Lederman. “They require specialized and focused care, which we are dedicated to providing in a convenient location.”
That location, in a planned 80,000 square foot building, is on Loop 101 as it meets the Indian Bend Road.
According to a recent report published by the firm Markets and Markets, the sports medicine industry in the US has been expanding at an unprecedented pace, and is expected to grow from its current $5.5 billion to more than $7.2 billion in the next 5 years.
Typically, sports medicine practitioners treat those who have been injured due to participating in athletic competition, with a focus on concussions, dislocations, fractures and strains, while also helping athletes to improve their performance.
The preliminary design process for the Banner facility is already underway, with work expected to begin sometime next year.
By Garry Boulard
In an effort to spur a more seamless process of planning and building transportation infrastructure projects across the country, the Department of Transportation has announced the creation of what it calls Regional Infrastructure Accelerators.
By design, the Accelerators will quicken the pace of infrastructure projects both at the financing and delivery level.
In a press release, the Transportation Department said the Accelerators program will “assist project sponsors in project planning, evaluating innovative financial options, accessing technical assistance and best practices, and developing a pipeline of projects ready for investment.”
Up to $5 million in funding will be available for the creation of a demonstration program designed to get the Accelerators effort up and running.
The effort will be administered by the DOT’s Build America Bureau, established during the Obama Administration, and tasked with spearheading airport, rail, road, and transit infrastructure projects.
By Garry Boulard
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