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Natural disasters and N.Tx. construction

image Natural disasters and N.Tx. construction

DALLAS/FT WORTH - Talking about natural disasters and the lasting effects they have is never an easy topic. First of all, our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all the families affected by the recent hurricanes and the earthquake in Mexico. Once again, I am proud to call myself an American and a Texan because of the immense amount of support we provide, not only to our own residents, but also other areas in need.



  There are lots of questions going through our minds on how the recent disasters will affect our con-struction industry. Anyone currently in this industry knows how hard it is to find manpower to staff current projects. Companies continue to move their headquarters to Texas and bring employees with them. The domino effect has caused a market like we have never seen before. Our industry was already in need of skilled trade workers, superinten-dents, project managers, safety professionals and almost any other position you can think of. Build Your Future estimates the state of Texas will be 810,000 skilled trade professionals short in the year 2020. This tells us our industry was already in need before the natural disasters.
    We have heard many different opin-ions on what the effects are going to be, but to me, there are several facts. Given the limited labor resources we are experiencing, the rebuilding effort will draw from our already stretched pool of contractors. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, construction unem-ployment was already at a 16-year low, another indication of our limited labor market. Governor Abbott said he believes the federal government will need to spend between $150 billion and $180 billion to help Texas recover from Harvey. To put that dollar amount in perspective, in Texas, construction contributed $91 billion (5.6%) of the state’s GDP of $1.6 trillion in 2016. That is higher than the industries’ 4.2% share of the U.S. GDP.
    In the DFW market, companies have been feeling the pain of labor shortage for several years, but Harvey has exacer-bated the pain. Construction is a very relational business and we always try to take care of our clients exceptionally
well, whether that be general contractor to owners or specialty contractors to general contractors. With such limited labor resources, the pain is beginning to be felt at a deeper level by clients.
    There are several additional factors, which are not always discussed. Even if we did have the additional skilled tradesmen to send south, there isn’t a place for them to stay. The hotel and living accommodations are mostly occupied by families displaced from their home during the rebuilding process. During Hurricane Katrina, temporary housing for workers were set up before the storm hit to help with immediate assistance afterward. The amount of devastation Harvey caused was likely not predictable to call for this type of preparation. We have heard specific conversations regarding the need for code officials to help determine if buildings in the hardest hit areas are available for occupation. Officials have come from all over the country to try and assist, only to find out there is not a place to stay in or around the Houston area. Ironically, the labor shortage extends into the code official profession also. We were already experiencing a shortage of code officials in our industry, but now it’s even worse due to the demand.
    Another factor is the cost and availability of materials, especially plywood and drywall. Gypsum products have already increased 9% over the last 12 months. Even if the cost of the material stays the same, the transportation/delivery fee may increase due to the complexity of getting to the site location.
    None of this is likely new information to anyone who faithfully reads Construc-tion News. By far, the number one issue in our industry is manpower – it was before Harvey and it is even more apparent now. Times like this are when the importance of being involved in your trade association becomes more apparent than ever. Immediately following Harvey, construction association chapters all across the state were communicating on ways to find and quickly train potential skilled tradesmen. We are still working on temporary solutions to assist that range from local chapter office involvement all the way up to the governor’s office.
    We all know the biggest issue – we need more skilled professionals in our industry. In order to solve this problem, we have to do something to change the perception that a career in construction is a negative. Our industry has to come together and share the positives a career in construction can have. We have to recruit the next generation of construc-tion workers. At TEXO, we have launched a positive awareness campaign for construction called Build Texas Proud! We are in local high schools as well as 2-year and 4-year colleges telling them about the many opportunities our industry can provide them and their families. The problem is bigger than anything we can do alone; it is going to take an entire industry getting involved at all levels, from speaking to high school students to testifying in front of Texas legislative committees. If there is an industry that can accomplish it though, it is construction! I’m convinced people in construction are the best people in the world and some of the hardest fighters. Join us in the effort to share the positives of our industry. Join us and show your pride for being in the construction industry. Build Texas Proud!
    TEXO combines the two largest national construction associations to unify, advocate and advance the construction industry in North and East Texas, and represents general contractors and specialty contractors in our region. -mjm

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Melissa Jones-Meyer dfweditor@constructionnews.net