For the first time in anyone’s memory, the board of directors of Associated Builders and Contractors voted to endorse a presidential candidate before the primary when it endorsed Mitt Romney at its winter meeting earlier this week. The ABC board examined the votes, position statements and track records of the candidates and determined that Gov. Romney is the best candidate on free enterprise and open competition issues. Sen. Santorum’s record on ABC issues is under 50% — wouldn’t even qualify for ABC PAC funds at that level. Somewhat a gutsy move, but the board decided to back the candidate that it felt would be best for construction and our members.
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) just released its Construction Backlog Indicator (CBI) for the fourth quarter of 2011. CBI declined 3.2 percent from the previous quarter from 8.1 months to 7.8 months, but is still up 10.9 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. CBI is a forward-looking economic indicator that measures the amount of nonresidential construction work under contract to be completed in the future.
“Overall, the latest CBI numbers indicate a degree of stalling in the recovery of the nation’s nonresidential construction industry, likely due to a combination of the soft patch that developed in the broader economy early last year, a number of seasonal factors and the winding down of federal stimulus projects,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “But the good news is that given the recent acceleration in economic and employment growth, CBI is positioned to rebound more forcefully during the quarters ahead.
“In addition, the most recent data reflect the ongoing expansion in privately funded construction activity as opposed to the contraction of publicly funded construction,” Basu said. “The nation’s smaller construction firms are gaining an advantage from this shift, in contrast to the decreased construction activity among the larger firms that had benefited from earlier federal stimulus projects and military base realignment-related construction.”
Construction backlog expanded in the Northeast, but declined in the South and West, and was essentially unchanged in the Middle States. Backlog is higher in every region compared to a year ago.
“The disparity between regional construction activity is on the rise,” said Basu. “One year ago, the difference in backlog between the South region, with the lengthiest backlog, and the West region, with the shortest backlog, was 1.98 months. During the fourth quarter of 2011, this gap rose to 2.81 months, with the South reporting a backlog of 8.92 months and the West at 6.11 months.
All industry segments monitored by ABC’s CBI declined in average construction backlog from the third quarter to the fourth quarter, but backlog is up on a year-over-year basis in both the commercial/institutional and infrastructure categories.
Construction backlog in the commercial/institutional segment fell from 8.4 months in the third quarter of 2011 to 7.8 months in the fourth quarter, but remains 11.4 percent above the level reported one year ago.
Heavy industrial is the only segment in which construction backlog declined from the same time one year ago. Backlog for this segment fell from 6.6 months in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 5.7 months in the fourth quarter of 2011.
“The most important finding in this quarter’s report is the growing construction activity taking place among smaller firms,” Basu said. “Early in the recovery, the lion’s share of construction work seemed to favor firms with annual revenues in excess of $50 million. This had much to do with federal infrastructure spending. As the economic recovery has broadened to encompass more construction segments, work has steadily spread to smaller firms – a trend that is likely to continue.”
York International division Unitary Products Group is recalling 226,000 gas furnaces for manufactured homes. The units can overheat, causing the heat-exchanger to crack and create openings for flames to escape.
The furnaces were previously recalled in November 2004. Since then, there have been 366 incidents, some involving extensive property damage.
Defective units were sold under the Coleman, Coleman Evcon and Red T brands between 1995 and 2000. Model numbers are: DGAM075BDD, DGAM075BDE, DGAM075BDF, DGAT070BDD, DGAT070BDE, DGAT070BDF, DGAT075BDD, DGAT075BDE, DGAT075BDF, DLAS075BDD, DLAS075BDE and DLAS075BDF.
Unitary is offering free inspections and repairs of the affected models. For more information, visit www.dgatprogram.com or call (888) 665-4640.
The Department of Labor & Industries announced that it is holding four hearings to take public comments on rules pertaining to structured settlement agreements for workers’ compensation claims.
In 2011, the Legislature passed several key workers’ compensation reforms. Engrossed House Bill 2123 allows workers, employers or L&I to initiate and negotiate structured settlement agreements to resolve claims for certain injured workers age 55 and over.
A structured settlement agreement is an agreement between the worker, the employer, and L&I to resolve future non-medical benefits on a claim. In most structured settlements, the claim is closed and the worker is paid a fixed amount of compensation in periodic payments spelled out in the agreement. Structured settlement is another option for those injured workers who want to pursue work or retirement goals independent of the system.
L&I is responsible for leading negotiations with State Fund employers who insure with L&I and their injured workers. The agency is not included in structured settlement agreement discussions with self-insured employers.
Even though workers enter into a structured settlement agreement, they may still receive appropriate medical treatment for conditions allowed on their claim.
Public hearings on the proposed rules will be held at:
• Vancouver, Feb. 21, 10 a.m., Red Lion at the Quay, 100 Columbia St., 98660
• Tukwila, Feb. 21, 1 p.m., L&I Tukwila office, 12806 Gateway Dr. S., 98168
• Tumwater, Feb.22, 10 a.m., L&I Tumwater building, 7273 Linderson Way S.W., 98501
• Spokane, Feb.22, 10 a.m., Center Place Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Place, 99216
Written comments will be accepted until 5 p.m., Feb. 24. You can submit written comments to Nancy James at:
Mail: Department of Labor & Industries, P.O. Box 44208, Olympia, WA 98504
Hand delivery: L&I, 7273 Linderson Way SW, Tumwater, WA 98501.
The Senate Labor, Commerce & Consumer Protection Committee recently heard SB 6416, which would mandate certified payrolls on all public works projects. AGC is opposed to the measure.
While certified payrolls are, in of themselves, not entirely objectionable, the bill would merely layer the requirement on top of the existing framework of Statement of Intents to Pay Prevailing Wages and Affidavits of Wages in what amounted to “a regulatory dog pile”. If we have certified payrolls, then why is there a need for Intents and Affidavits?
The bill did not pass out of committee but it is expected to be the topic of interim conversations after the legislative session, and AGC will be presenting as series of prevailing wage streamlining and simplification proposals.
SB 6416 was sponsored by Senators Chase, Pridemore, Conway, Benton, Kohl-Welles, Kline, Roach, Kastama, Keiser and Shin.
The Chinese are at it again. Last year, they built a 15-story hotel in 6 days. Now, the Broad Group has built a 30-story hotel in 15 days.
A big question that immediately pops up: “Is the building safe?” Well, Broad Group claims it can withstand a 9 magnitude earthquake and is 5 times more quake resistant than traditional buildings, thanks to a unique diagonal steel bracing system.
It also is 5 times more efficient than a traditional building, with 4-pane windows, exterior solar shading and interior window insulators. Building air is 20 times purer, thanks to a heat recovery system with 3-stage filtration.
Pretty cool stuff.