Although there are a vast number of issues upon which the Trump Administration and Democrats in Congress disagree, analysts have for some time now believed that an area of possible agreement could come in addressing the country’s infrastructure needs.
Now, Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and Charles Schumer, the Democrat Minority Leader in the Senate, have signaled that they are willing to sit down with the President and discuss infrastructure ideas.
Speaker Pelosi earlier said that she wants to see passage of a bill that could provide as much as $2 trillion in funding for a variety of infrastructure needs, including repairing bridges and upgrading the nation’s highway system.
“I think we can work together,” Pelosi said in a press conference during a House Democratic meeting in Virginia. “I’m optimistic.”
But the Speaker also said that in order for any infrastructure legislation to be effective, it’s funding could not be any less than $1 trillion.
A plan offered in early 2017 by the White House, which asked Congress to authorize $200 billion over the next decade in order to jumpstart over $1.5 trillion in projects, died for lack of support.
Both Democrat and Republican leaders say the sticking point is not whether or not the country’s infrastructure needs work, but how to pay for that work.
Inevitably, say analysts, the question will come down to whether or not the President or Congress will be willing to raise the country’s fuel tax to fund current and ongoing infrastructure needs.
The upcoming meeting between the President and Congressional leaders comes in the wake of a report just issued by the Washington-based American Road & Transportation Builders Association saying that more than 47,000 of the country’s 616,000 bridges are now classified as “structurally deficient.”
That same report also said that if every structurally deficient in America was placed end-to-end it would comprise a span of 1,100 miles—more the distance between Chicago and Denver.
By Garry Boulard
Work could begin later this year on a $1.2 million bioscience lab in Oro Valley, Arizona which will be part of a larger and evolving bioscience business park.
The one-story 4,000 square-foot facility, with office space, will belong to the Oro Valley Innovation Labs.
It has also been proposed that the facility may in the future be built out for a total of 10,000 square feet.
Long in the planning stage, the facility will primarily be used to help medical diagnostics-centered bioscience startup efforts, and will also house mentorship and training programs.
The bioscience business incubator campus is already the home to Icagen Incorporated, a pharmaceutical development company, and Roche Tissue Diagnostics, which provides cancer diagnostic solutions.
Pima County officials earlier attempted to fund construction of the incubator, but that project was rejected by voters as part of a $815 million bond issue four years ago.
Despite that defeat, University of Arizona President Robert Robbins last year unveiled a strategic plan that included a collaborative effort between the school and Oro Valley in the development of the biotech business park.
By Garry Boulard
Members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors have announced their location preference for the building of a new port of entry facility in Douglas, Arizona.
The second largest such port in Arizona, officials have for years said that the overall facility needs to be greatly upgraded in order to efficiently serve an always-increasing flow of traffic to and from Mexico.
The Raul H. Castro Port of Entry at 15 Pan American Avenue currently processes more than 64,000 commercial trucks on an annual basis between Douglas and the Mexican city of Agua Prieta, not to mention upwards of 3 million cars.
Upgrading work on the overall port has included a $484,000 expansion project, adding a third lane to the pedestrian facility.
But both the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as local officials in Douglas, have also been promoting the idea of building an entirely new facility at the border which would center on commercial traffic.
That move has now gained additional traction with the supervisors’ board delegating undeveloped land off of the James Ranch Road as an idea spot for that project.
Cochise County officials expect to spend up to $200,000 on a development study looking at the potential for building a new port.
Funding for construction of the separate port facility has not yet been identified.
By Garry Boulard
National Catholic leaders are urging Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to provide an 18-month designation for Venezuelan residents in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status program.
That initiative, first approved nearly two decades ago by Congress as part of the larger Immigration Act of 1990, provides temporary immigration status to residents of other countries in the U.S. who have left their native lands due to an ongoing armed conflict or environmental disaster, among other reasons.
“At this time it is vital that Venezuelans in the United States have an opportunity to live with dignity, work lawfully, and provide for their families’ well-being until they can safely return home,” Bishop Joe Vasquez and Sean Callahan said in their letter to Pompeo.
Bishop Vasquez is the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration Committee, and Callahan is the chief executive officer of the Catholic Relief Services.
In the last year the Trump Administration has moved to downsize the program, removing more than 300,000 people from its rolls.
Residents from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, among ten countries, have been the primary beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status program.
Although exact numbers are not known, it is thought that tens of thousands of people who are currently in the Temporary Protected Status program work in the nation’s construction industry.
For that reason, officials with the Associated General Contractors, National Association of Home Builders, and the Laborers’ International Union of North America, among other groups, have urged Congress to keep the program in place.
According to a recent United Nations study more than 72,000 Venezuelans and their U.S.-born children could benefit from the Temporary Protected Status program.
At least two dozen members of the U.S. Senate have now asked the Trump Administration to extend the Temporary Protected Status program to eligible Venezuelans, while legislation has also been introduced in both the House and Senate that would grant immediate coverage to Venezuelans under the program.
Plans are now underway for the construction of the third phase of the sweeping Tierra Contenta master planned community in Santa Fe.
That final phase work will take place on the south side of Santa Fe, and will not only include the eventual construction of up to 1,800 homes, and some commercial development, but also road infrastructure and parks.
The project’s development team, which includes the Tierra Contenta Corporation and the Santa Fe Community Housing Trust, is currently in the process of seeking public input on the final phase work.
Set to go up near the Capital High School, which is located at 4851 Paseo del Sol, the third phase work will also see the construction of affordable housing units. But the exact number of such units remains to be determined.
Tierra Contenta currently includes more than 2,400 townhomes, multifamily and single family structures measuring both one and two stories in height.
Out of the existing mix of Tierra Contenta properties, some 40 percent of the homes are defined as affordable.
Other homes in the current development have generally been priced between $200,000 and $330,000.
The first Tierra Contenta homes, in a project likened to a pedestrian-friendly village, were completed in the fall of 1995.
By 2018 there were around 7,500 people calling Tierra Contenta home.
By Garry Boulard
The C. Cloyd Miller Library on the Silver City campus of Western New Mexico State University is a place of hundreds of thousands of books, meeting rooms, archives, and government documents.
It is also the only structure on campus with its own bell tower.
Now, the building is in store for an extensive exterior renovation as the result of the big $900 million capital outlay bill just approved by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
That legislation will provide $1.3 million in funding for both the library work as well as renovation work to the school’s Student Memorial Building.
Western New Mexico University is also receiving $1.2 million for security enhancement projects; $400,000 for information technology infrastructure improvements; and another $50,000 for the planning and design of a veterans center.
The capital outlay bill is additionally providing $1.2 million for the planning, design and construction of electrical infrastructure work on the Roswell branch campus of Eastern New Mexico University; along with $100,000 for the equipping of a virtual reality system for the branch’s health care education program.
With its main campus in Portales, Eastern New Mexico University is also in line to receive $346,000 for infrastructure work at its Ruidoso campus, along with another $30,000 for the working on a retaining wall there.
One of the largest appropriations at $650,000 is slated for the construction of a new president’s residence on the school’s Portales campus.
That building, upon completion, will additionally serve as a public event venue for the school.
Members of the Eastern New Mexico University’s board of regents in January voted in favor of building a new presidential residence as a result of asbestos and mold issues in the current president’s house.
By Garry Boulard
In a bid to alter and improve its retail profile, Sears, Roebuck and Company has announced plans to open a series of what it is calling “smaller format” stores.
While typical Sears department stores have measured around 160,000 square feet on average, and the company’s Grand Stores have been as large as 225,000 square feet, the smaller stores are expected to come in at anywhere from 10,000 to 15,000 square feet.
The new format will emphasize the goods that made the more than 100 year-old chain famous in the first place: tools, home furnishings, and appliances.
The initial stores are also going up in the kind of mid-sized markets that Sears has for decades dominated: Anchorage, Alaska; Lafayette, Louisiana; and Overland Park, Kansas.
“We are here to serve these communities and this is a part of our strategy to maintain a presence in markets where we have right-sized our footprint,” said Peter Bourtours, the chief brand officer for Sears, in a statement.
How many of the new small format stores will be built, and where they will be located, has not yet been announced.
Ironically, the new Overland Park store, which is being built out in a shopping mall space that once belonged to a furniture store, is in a city that once had a traditionally large Sears store.
That 209,000 square foot space was built more than fifty years ago, but was closed in 2017 as one of the more than 500 stores shut down by the company. The structure has since been sold.
The new smaller format stores in Anchorage and Lafayette are also being built in refurbished shopping mall space.
By Garry Boulard
A company that has won a national reputation for its filtrated milk has announced plans to build a 300,000 square foot production and distribution plant in Goodyear, Arizona.
The project will go up inside the city’s thriving 1,600-acre Palm Valley 303 Business Park.
The Chicago-based Fairlife LLC, founded in 2012, produces a number of popular dairy-based products that are distributed by the Coca Cola Company.
With an existing production facility in Coopersville, Michigan, the company has become known for its popular Core Power beverage, which is marketed to appeal to athletes; as well as the chocolate drink Fairlife Yup! and Fairlife Smart Snacks with Honey and Oats, among other offerings.
The company, processing milk through a series of filters that removes 99 percent of the lactose, produces a product that also has 50 percent less sugar than regular milk, but substantially more calcium and protein.
With annual revenues in excess of $100 million, Fairlife has in recent months been engaged in an effort to not just to find a location for its new plant, but to enter into partnerships with area diary farms that understand its ethic.
In a statement, Tim Doelman, chief operating officer for the company, said Fairlife settled on the Goodyear area because it has farms that are “willing to follow Fairlife’s responsible animal care and sustainable farming practices, while producing the highest quality milk.”
Work on what will ultimately be a $200 million facility is expected to begin later this year with an anticipated late 2020 completion date.
By Garry Boulard
The largest city in Colorado with the largest infrastructure system in the state is thinking about creating its own transportation and infrastructure department.
As proposed, the new department would provide oversight to a multi-modal transportation system and would be tasked with planning, designing, and constructing specific individual transportation projects throughout the city.
The department’s mandate would also include the operation and maintenance of new and existing transportation systems.
City officials additionally say that the current Department of Public Works would be folded into the larger Department of Transportation and Infrastructure. By so doing, there would be a better coordination between such tasks as repairing existing sewers and building new roads.
The idea, which will require a change to the city’s charter, now has to go to the Denver City Council, which will decide whether to put it on this November’s ballot.
In a statement, Eulois Cleckley, executive director of the city’s Public Works Department, said a new and comprehensive department addressing the bike, car, and transit needs of the more than 700,000 people who live in Denver just makes good sense.
Combining public works with infrastructure and transportation into one agency, said Cleckley, would create an enhanced “project delivery approach that takes transformation and infrastructure projects from concept to completion in a more integrated, sequential, and coordinated manner.”
By Garry Boulard
Architects on average make around $88,000 annually, says a new report just issued by the Washington-based Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Compiled by the bureau’s Occupational Employment Statistics division, the report places New York architects on the top of the salary rankings, making an average of $109,000.
Architect salaries in Utah were ranked the lowest at $67,000.
In the West, both Colorado, with an average architect salary of $73,000, and New Mexico, where the average was $72,000, were ranked in the bottom ten states.
Arizona was ranked slightly highest with an average architect salary of $95,200. But the Grand Canyon State scored higher in a separate category as the state with the biggest increase, at 21 percent, in architect salaries from 2016 to 2017.
In looking at these numbers, Forbes magazine says everything is context: “It’s not particularly surprising to see states such as Massachusetts, California, Alaska, and New Hampshire rank high because they are also among the top 10 states with the highest median household incomes.”
“However,” the magazine continues, “states like Alabama and West Virginia have median incomes of $46,472 and $44,061 respectively, which are among the lowest in the country; yet architects in these two states earn on average $91,380 a year and $89,200 a year, respectively.”
The New York-based Architect’s Newspaper also urges caution, noting “It’s no secret that even in the highest-ranking states on this list, New York, junior and interns, or up-and-coming designers usually under the age of 30, receive significantly less money until they earn their licensure.”
Even then, adds the publication, “those newly-minted architects aren’t given promotions or raises. It depends on the ethics and goals of the firm in which they work.”
The report additionally notes that there are currently about 103,100 architects working in firms in the U.S.
By Garry Boulard
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