Monday, 31 August 2009

Court upholds rule requiring contractors to use E-Verify


A federal court upheld an impending regulation that will require government contractors to certify the employment eligibility of their workers using the Homeland Security Department’s E-Verify system.

Federal Times reports Judge Alexander Williams of the U.S. District Court for Maryland said in an Aug. 25 ruling that DHS didn’t break the law when it mandated that contractors use the system to check the employment status of their workers.

The plaintiffs in the case, which include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argued that the law authorizing E-Verify prohibited DHS from requiring any group to use E-Verify, a Web-based system employers can use to check personal information such as Social Security numbers to confirm their employees are legally able to work in the U.S.

The court ruling paves the way for the implementation of the rule, which had been delayed since January because of the case. The rule fulfills a Bush administration executive order mandating that contractors use the system to verify employment status to prevent illegal immigrants from performing government work.

Starting Sept. 8, new federal contracts worth more than $100,000 will include a clause requiring contractors to use E-Verify to certify the employment eligibility of any current employees who will work under the contract. The rule also requires contractors to use E-Verify to certify the eligibility of all new hires regardless of whether they’ll work on behalf of the government. Existing contracts lasting more than six months can be modified to add the requirement, but only if the contractor agrees.

“We’re pleased that the court has ruled in favor of a program that we’re confident provides the best means to ensure the eligibility of individuals to work in this country,” said Matthew Chandler, a DHS spokesman.

Eric Bord, an immigration attorney with the firm Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, said the rule could force contractors to re-evaluate the eligibility of all of their employees because it might be too difficult for government contractors to pinpoint who is and isn’t working on a federal project. It may be easier to accept the burden of checking all employees than risk debarment for running afoul of contract conditions.

Contractors that won’t have contracts with E-Verify requirements also will face challenges if they want to use E-Verify voluntarily. Federal immigration law prevents them from recertifying employees unless they are bound by a contract requiring them to do so, Bord said.

Bord recommended, however, that those contractors volunteer to use E-Verify for new employees, so they are familiar with the system when the time comes to screen all employees for a government contract.

Click here to read the Federal Times article.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Gov Perdue fully restores NC school construction lottery funds


Gov. Bev Perdue today announced she is fully restoring funds to the lottery capital fund for public schools.

“When the national recession created a shortfall of billions of dollars, I had to turn over every stone to pay North Carolina’s bills — to pay teachers, to keep schools and other core services running,” Perdue said. “With our bills paid and the books for last fiscal year cleared out, I’m restoring the school construction lottery funds in full, which means North Carolina’s public schools will receive another $37.6 million next week.”

In February, Perdue withheld $37.6 million during the 2008-09 fiscal year from the Public School Building Capital Fund to ensure the state had sufficient resources to manage cash flow and payroll obligations. That money is being restored using funds left over from the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Click Here to see a list of funds going to each county.

26 NC mayors meet to discuss how stimulus money given out


For the first time, mayors across North Carolina were in the same room to discuss how the state spends money on roads.

Gov. Beverly Perdue signed into law Thursday a bill that would give local governments the chance to impose additional taxes and tolls for road construction, an issue the mayors in the state's 26 largest cities had on their agenda.

News 14 Carolina reported the mayors gathered at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord to discuss two major topics -- money and transportation. Many are unnerved about how the state divvies out money through a 20-year-old formula designed to be equal.

“We found that any way you slice it, based on population, unemployment or economic activity, the metropolitan regions of our state did not get their fair share of the stimulus money,” High Point Mayor Rebecca Smothers said.

The infusion of more than $800 million in federal stimulus money for transportation put the distribution formula in the spotlight. Before more money comes down the pipeline, the mayors want to change the way money is given out.

“We had to get the money out quickly and depend on what was there,” David Agnew, White House Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, explained. “What we've learned over the past few months is that many of those distribution mechanisms for the transportation money could have been made better,

The mayors wanted other options to raise additional funds for local transit needs. And just before Thursday's meeting, Perdue signed legislation giving local governments the option for a transit sales tax and tolls.

“It's not just about commerce and economic development anymore, it's also about how we preserve the quality of life in this state and how we preserve the natural beauty,” Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy said.

Perdue’s legislation will allow counties to hold a vote on a local sales tax that would fund transit. Mecklenburg County already had that option, but in Triangle and Triad counties, leaders could pass a half-cent sales tax for transit. In other counties, the option would be for a quarter-cent per dollar tax.

Click here to read the News 14 Carolina report.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Safety initiatives lower construction fatalities by 20 percent


The U.S. Department of Labor reported that construction fatalities in 2008 fell 20 percent from the previous year to 969, resulting in a preliminary fatality rate of 9.6 per 100,000 workers, down from 10.8 in 2007. The final report will be released in April 2010.

Voluntary employer workplace safety initiatives, as well as Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) programs and training, are likely the reason for the decline in construction fatalities, reports the Associated Builders & Contractors (ABC).

These numbers are supporting the case that self-directed integration of safety into their company’s culture is continuing to yield dividends for progressive contractors and their employees alike, said ABC.

To support safety on the job site, ABC offers the Safety Training and Evaluation Process (STEP) program to its members, which allows member contractors to regularly evaluate and strengthen their programs, yielding safety performance that is consistently better than the industry average. When compared with national construction averages, ABC members that participate in STEP have fatality rates that are 58 percent lower, OSHA injury rates that are 30 percent lower, and 90 percent fewer OSHA citations. ABC members that are interested in improving their safety programs can attend ABC’s Sept. 16 webinar, “The 5 Key Components of an Effective Safety Program.” ABC also offers its members safety classes through its chapters and annual Construction Education Conference.

To read the preliminary fatality report, click here.

To sign for the safety webinar, click here.

ABC Safety Hotline: Want to ask a question using email or relay some safety information? Email: abcsafety@abccarolinas.org. or call Tim Eldridge, ABC of the Carolinas' VP, Workforce Development at 704-367-1331. ABCC members can receive 30 minutes of free phone consultation regarding OSHA issues, construction safety, on-the-job injuries, workers' compensation, incident rates, experience mod calulations, as well as any other safety questions. Call 704-602-3829

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

40-month decline in construction materials production set to end soon


The construction commodities market appears to be stabilizing this summer after a 28% fall in production over three and a half years, RS Means reports. Sales were approximately steady in June and production fell only 0.1% in July when orders rose 1.4%.

Inventories held by manufacturers have been dropping since November and have now fallen enough — with steep production cuts — to push the month end inventory/sales ratio to 1.43 from a peak of 1.52 in December and January.

The Census Bureau indexes for construction materials are overstating the recent improvement in the market. The indexes are constructed by dividing the use of materials between construction, manufacturing and other end markets. This allocation uses the historical shares of purchases of steel, plastics, glass and other materials by each end market. The Census Bureau has no specific information on the share of steel production shipped to the construction market.

As a result, the abrupt rise in manufacturing activity in the late spring, especially for motor vehicles, causes too much material sales to be assigned to construction. Stability in construction materials production and shipments will probably not happen until the fall, possibly even the winter.

This is still at least a weeks’ too much construction materials inventory held by manufacturers so expect production to be just short of steady for the rest of the year in order to keep pushing the inventory/sales ratio down to the 1.30 range.

However, production of materials specialized to the residential market will pick up progressively in the second half of 2009. Recovery in nonresidential markets will come early next year, RS Means reports.

Click here to read the complete article.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Proposed rule would recind no-match requirement


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule that would rescind the “no-match” regulation which requires a notice be sent to employers from DHS or the Social Security Administration (SSA) when an employee’s name does not match the Social Security number provided.

DHS first issued its final rule on the no-match procedures in August 2007, but a coalition of business groups, labor organizations and immigrant rights groups challenged the rule in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. As a result, an injunction was issued and SSA suspended the distribution of employer no-match letters until the lawsuit was resolved.

DHS July 8 announced its intention to rescind the rule, which was still blocked by the court and had not gone into effect. Instead, DHS will focus on enforcement efforts using E-Verify and other programs.

The comment period for the proposed rule is open until Sept. 18.

To read the proposed rule, click here.

For more information, visit DHS’ website, www.dhs.gov.

Monday, 24 August 2009

NC construction jobs down 18%


North Carolina had just 192,400 construction jobs in July, an 18.2 percent decline from a year ago, according to an analysis of federal employment data released Friday by the Associated General Contractors of America.

Triangle Business Journal reported the analysis found that 47 states saw declines in construction employment, while only two states saw increases and one saw no change in construction employment between July 2008 and July 2009. Arizona and Nevada led the nation in construction job losses while only Louisiana and North Dakota saw increases in construction jobs.

Association CEO Stephen Sandherr said in a statement that work has been hurt by a near halt in office and retail construction and stimulus spending that has yet to materialize.

“There aren't a lot of places construction workers can turn to avoid the steep layoffs sweeping the construction industry right now,” Sandherr said.

Sandherr said that each of the five hardest hit states in July saw construction employment declines greater than 20 percent over the previous

year. The worst hit was Arizona, which had a 28 percent decrease in construction employment.

Sandherr said that the new employment figures point to the need for federal and state officials to move faster in allocating the estimated $135 billion in stimulus-funded construction programs.

Click here to read the Triangle Business Journal article.

Friday, 21 August 2009

U.S. architectural billings index up in July: AIA


The American Institute of Architects' Architecture Billings Index leaped nearly six points in July to 43.1, signaling an improvement in business conditions, reports the PSMJ Resources blog.

In fact, the increase more than offset the nearly five-point dip in June. The index was 43.1 in July, 37.7 in June, and 42.9 in May, so the numbers are the best they have been in a long time. Any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings.

The new projects score fell from 53.8 in June to 50.3 in July.

AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker cautions against getting overly optimistic about the July numbers. "In addition to a very competitive marketplace, architects continue to report that lenders have still not yet fully opened credit lines and that the stimulus funding has so far provided limited project activity for the design community overall," he said.

Regional averages were as follows: South (43.4, up sharply from 40.5 in June), West (39.7, down slightly from 39.9 in June and remaining remarkably consistent over the past several months with 39.4 in May, 39.2 in April, and 36.1 in March), Northeast (37.8, down again from 42.8 in June, 48.3 in May and 47.1 in April), and Midwest (36.9).

The July ABI breaks down by sector as follows: mixed practice (42.9, down from 43.5 in June, 44.5 in May, 44.2 in April, and 44.0 in March), commercial/industrial (42.9, up from 39.5 in June, but down from 43.1 in May), multi-family residential (40.7, down from 42.7 in June, 45.5 in May and 43.2 in April), and institutional (37.1, up slightly from 37.0 in June, but down from 38.0 in May and 43.2 in April).

For additional information on the Architectural Billings Index, click here.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Construction materials prices fall in July


Construction materials prices continued to move downward in July, falling 0.6 percent, according to the Aug. 18 producer price index (PPI) report by the U.S. Department of Labor. Construction materials prices are now 8.6 percent lower than July 2008.

A summary of the PPI report appeared yesterday in the Associated Builders & Contractors NEWSLINE.

“To even the most seasoned economist, the producer price index data for July are a source of major perplexity,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “A variety of factors suggest that producer prices should now be stabilizing worldwide, but that is just not the case.

“Despite growth in Asia, Europe and North America, and the implementation of major stimulus packages underway in various parts of the world – including most notably in China and the U.S. – construction materials prices continue to trend downward,” Basu said.

Prices for fabricated structural metal products fell for the 10th straight month, down 1 percent from July and 6.9 percent lower than last July. Nonferrous wire and cable producer prices decreased by 0.8 percent in July and are down 16.9 percent year-over-year. Prices for prepared asphalt and tar roofing and siding products decreased 1.6 percent from last month but are still up 23.5 percent from July 2008.

Softwood lumber prices jumped 6.7 percent in July but are down 10.1 percent on a year-over-year basis. Plumbing fixtures and fittings prices remain unchanged on a monthly basis and are up just 0.5 percent from a year ago.

“The fact that producer prices are still falling is a reflection that the global economy remains fragile,” Basu noted. “It is also a reflection of the notion that recovery is unlikely to be brisk, including in the U.S. The expectation remains that, at some point in the not too distant future, producer prices will stabilize and begin to rise in accordance with historical patterns.

“The U.S. recession is now either over or ending, and growing concern regarding future inflation will likely contribute to stable or rising producers prices,” Basu concluded.

Crude energy prices decreased 6.2 percent last month, led by a 15.9 percent decrease in crude petroleum prices. Finished energy goods prices fell 2.4 percent in July as gasoline prices dropped 10.2 percent for the month. Overall, wholesale prices inched downward 0.9 percent in July following two consecutive months of increases.

To read the complete report, click here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Single-family home construction rises for fifth month


The Briar Chapel community near Chapel Hill hums with activity. It was just one sign of the homebuilding industry's slow recovery, the News & Observer reports.

In fact, the overall economy is getting a small boost as more buyers walk into model houses ready to sign contracts and builders hire workers to pour foundations and pave roads.

Construction of single-family homes rose in July for the fifth straight month, edging up almost 2 percent to the highest level since October, the government said Tuesday. Building permits climbed nearly 6 percent.

Each new home built creates about three jobs, on average, and generates about $90,000 in taxes paid to local and federal authorities, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

With new construction up 37 percent from its low point this winter, the industry is expected to help the overall economy this quarter for the first time in 3-1/2 years.

"Housing is no longer a drag," said Mark Vitner, a senior economist with Wells Fargo. "That's a good thing."

Of course, the housing industry is coming back from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and construction is still more than 70 percent lower than at its 2006 peak. So the effect of hiring and spending on materials such as wood and concrete is modest.

In addition, hammers are silent at construction sites for apartment buildings. For developers, it makes little sense to build when there are so many vacant homes and condominiums for rent. Apartment construction fell 13 percent from June to July.

That pulled the combined construction rate for homes and apartments down 1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 581,000 units, from 587,000 in June. Economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected 600,000.

July was the last month that most builders could start new homes and have first-time buyers qualify for a new tax credit. Buyers can save 10 percent on the price of a home, up to $8,000 in taxes, if they complete the purchase by the end of November.

Builders and real estate agents are pressuring Congress for that credit to be extended. On Tuesday, Pulte completed its acquisition of Centex for $1.53 billion in stock, becoming the largest homebuilder in the country.

One of the reasons for the purchase was Centex's focus on more affordable homes. Since the housing bubble burst, many builders have shifted to smaller houses, which can be sold at lower prices, to woo first-time homebuyers. The median price for a new home was $206,200 in June, almost $30,000 cheaper than a year earlier.

Click Here to read the entire News & Observer article.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Subcontracting event for three projects at Cherry Point

The North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC) will host a free subcontracting event with The Haskell Company on Wednesday, August 19 from 1-3 pm at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center,201 Tourist Center Drive, Havelock, NC Subcontractors throughout the entire state are welcome to attend. Registration is required.

The Haskell Company has three work-in-process projects that will be discussed all located at MCAS Cherry Point:

Project #1: Engineering Product Support Facility (EPSF) – 35,000 SF, 2-story with administrative space, engineering labs and telecom support center. Currently under construction with a completion date of August 2010.

Project #2: Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) These two 4-story BEQs shall contain a total of 180 sleeping rooms with a maximum housing occupancy of 348 enlisted military personnel. Work will be performed in the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point and is expected to be completed by April 2011.

Project #3: Consolidated Club – 20,000 SF, single story clubhouse. Includes restaurant, full kitchen, large ballroom, Officer & SNCO lounges. Construction begins September 2009 and with a completion date of June 2010.

The Haskell Company is looking for small businesses, small disadvantaged businesses, SBA HUBzone (not NC HUB), veteran-owned small businesses, woman-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses with the following experience requirements; working on military installations; bonding capability (in some trades); ability to maintain current insurance; ability to meet installation access requirements for MCAS Cherry Point; and financial capability to accomplish the work required.

Work is available in the following areas:

· Commercial & Institutional Building Construction

· Specialty Trade Contractors

· Temporary Help Services

· Solid Waste Collection

· Ready-Mix Concrete Manufacturing


Registration is required, visit www.ncmbc.us to register and print the documents needed to deliver to the Haskell Company.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Federal funds to create 3,400 NC construction jobs



North Carolina officials say more than $52 million in federal funding will create 1,400 construction jobs for building affordable rental apartments across the state .

According to the state Housing Finance Agency, money from the federal Tax Credit Assistance Program will create jobs for building 10 properties in 10 counties.

The agency also will receive federal tax credits to create 2,000 jobs for 14 other properties in 13 counties. Total investment is expected to be $192 million.

The agency said most apartments will be designated for families and some for elderly residents. A portion of the privately owned properties will be available to people with disabilities and people on supplemental security income.

Click here to view the News & Observer article.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

New toll road to support estimated 13,800 construction-related jobs


Shovels are lined up on the west end of the 540 Outer Loop in Raleigh for a ceremony Wednesday marking the start of work on the Triangle Expressway.

North Carolina began building its first modern toll road Wednesday. It won't be the last, reports the News & Observer. The $1.01 billion Triangle Expressway will serve Research Triangle Park commuters and other drivers ready to pay for a quicker ride to work.

Because gas tax collections have dwindled as road costs and traffic counts rise, North Carolina is turning to tolls to finance high-dollar, high-demand bridge and expressway projects that can draw paying customers.

Triangle Expressway drivers will pay tolls electronically, without stopping or slowing down. Cars and trucks will pass beneath sensors and video cameras over the expressway.

Frequent users who get transponders for their dashboards will pay the lowest rates. Occasional users will register their cars with the N.C. Turnpike Authority, which will send them bills when their license numbers are captured on camera. Video also will be used to bill drivers who do not open accounts; they'll pay the highest toll rates.

Toll rates have not been set. Initial estimates put the rates at roughly 14 cents a mile.

The N.C. Turnpike Authority hopes to start construction next year on two more toll projects that could be open for traffic by 2013:

The Monroe Connector/Bypass. Twenty-one miles from U.S. 74 near I-485 in Mecklenburg County to U.S. 74 between Wingate and Marshville in Union County.

The Mid-Currituck Bridge. Seven miles across Currituck Sound and Maple Swamp, linking N.C. 158 on Currituck County mainland to N.C. 12 on the Outer Banks. Private companies would finance and build it.

State and local planners say tolls will be needed to finish building the southern half of Raleigh's 540 Outer Loop -- and, eventually, to widen the Loop's northern arc.

A dozen dignitaries tossed red-dirt clumps from gold-painted shovels Wednesday in the TriEx groundbreaking on the grassy west end of the 540 Outer Loop. The six-lane expressway will be extended north through RTP to I-40 and south to Holly Springs.

Elected officials agreed to make the TriEx a toll road in 2005, after the state Department of Transportation squelched hopes for a tax-paid, toll-free Outer Loop extension through western Wake County.

"This toll-road option was not our first choice here," U.S. Rep. David Price of Chapel Hill told about 150 people at Wednesday's ceremony.

Local leaders concluded, Price said, that "we're not going to wait another 15 years to build this road -- that this is our best option, and we need to make it work."

TriEx travelers will start paying tolls electronically -- there will be no cash collected -- in late 2011, when the first 6.2-mile section opens for business in RTP. The remaining stretch from RTP to Holly Springs is expected to open in late 2012.

The N.C. Turnpike Authority borrowed $1.01 billion in bonds and a federal loan to build and operate the TriEx. State law says that when the debt is paid off, somewhere around 2043, TriEx will become toll-free.

The turnpike agency is moving ahead with other toll road and bridge projects across the state. Construction is expected to start in 2010 for a toll alternative to U.S. 74 east of Charlotte, and a toll bridge that could cut two hours from weekend beach trips for visitors to the Currituck County Outer Banks.

"We're not going to implement toll roads all over North Carolina in the next five years," said Gene Conti, the state transportation secretary. "But we do think it makes a lot of sense in areas where we have high congestion or we have folks with the ability to pay, like out on the Mid-Currituck Bridge."

Taxes built the northern, toll-free half of the 540 Outer Loop, but tax funds are petering out. North Carolina has only $160 million budgeted this year for all urban loop construction across the state, a fraction of the cost for TriEx alone.

So state and local leaders say tolls are the only likely funding source to finish the southern half of the Outer Loop. Turnpike authority officials want to start planning soon for the loop extension from Holly Springs to Garner.

And when Raleigh's relentless growth clogs the northern loop and more travel lanes have to be added -- sometime before 2035, local planners say -- the state is expected to turn it into a toll road, too.

The TriEx project is the most expensive public works job in state history.

The project will support an estimated 13,800 construction-related jobs over the next 42 months. After it is open for business, the TriEx will employ about 55 people to collect the tolls and maintain the road.

To read the complete News & Observer article, Click Here.

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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

NC General Assembly adjourned after 6 months


North Carolina's General Assembly has closed down yesterday for the year after six months of work dominated by the recession, a tight state budget and tax increases.

The Associated Press reported lawmakers spent most of their energy this year balancing service cuts against tax increases in one of the worst recessions in generations. The tough economic times didn't stop lawmakers from banning cigarette smoke from restaurants and bars, extending tax breaks to Apple Inc. and other businesses promising to create jobs, and bailing out the state-funded health insurance plan for its employees, retirees and teachers.

Lawmakers plan to return to Raleigh in May.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Art and Science of Publicity


The Art and Science of Publicity, explores how you can co-ordinate editorial publicity for your architectural, engineering and construction business. You can request a copy by email. In return, you'll receive the PDF booklet, which you can also review with page turning software.

This booklet outlines some simple concepts and techniques to receive news coverage for your business without spending a fortune on advertising. Media publicity -- whether it be on the web, radio, television, or conventional newspapers, is worth its weight in gold, because it magnifies and enhances the positive effects of word of mouth and referral publicity. Media publicity, however, is not "free" because you have to work creatively and often hard for it -- and it isn't usually easy to control or predict, but you can take some simple measures to manage the process and increase your chances of success.

In this booklet, Mark Buckshon explains the options and suggest some easy-to-implement ideas that will increase your chances of success.

Order a free copy via email to publicity@cnrgp.com. An autoresponder will send the publication to you.

The Art and Science of Publicity was written by Mark Buckshon, president, Construction News and Report Group of Companies, publishers of Triangle/Triad Construction News and Charlotte Construction News.

Friday, 7 August 2009

North Carolina enacts new crane rules


A bill enacting new crane rules cleared both houses of the NC legislature and was signed by Beverly Purdue.

The new crane rules are based on the Cranes & Derricks Advisory Committee (C-DAC) rule. Passage of the rules occurred after the Steel Erectors Association of America's (SEAA) efforts to get through the North Carolina Department of Labor Rulemaking process hit a snag when Duke Power raised numerous objections over the requirements for Digger Derricks.

Because of this snag, SEAA member, Eddie Williams,CEO, Buckner Companies, worked with several key members of the legislature to get the C-DAC rules attached to the legislation. The legislation mirrors the C-DAC draft with very few exceptions. The one significant exception is that the phase-in requirement for crane operator certification was dropped to 2 years from the effective date of the law which is October 1, 2009.

Click here to get additional details from SEAA.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

AGC urges federal agencies to accelerate pace of awarding stimulus contracts


Engineering-News Record reports some legislators and the Associated General Contractors are not happy with the pace of the overall federal stimulus program.

House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar (D-Minn.) says “the highway and transit portion, especially the highway formula funds, are in place and are working as we anticipated, except for a few states.” But, he adds, “I am troubled that there is considerable unevenness in the implementation in non-highway and transit agencies.” Oberstar pointed to Environmental Protection Agency stimulus aid for state revolving funds (SRFs) that finance wastewater-treatment projects. He says he is “very disappointed” that SRFs “are lagging behind our expectations.”

Craig Hooks, an acting EPA assistant administrator, says the agency has obligated more than $5.9 billion of its $7.2 billion in ARRA funds, and that more than $5 billion of the obligations are for clean-water and drinking-water revolving funds. But little of that has turned into projects under construction. Hooks says he has refocused EPA’s staff on providing more assistance to state recipients of the SRF aid in an effort to get more of the money moving into contracts.

“While the construction portion of the stimulus is having an impact, it is far from delivering its full promise and potential,” says Stephen Sandherr, AGC’s chief executive officer. Results of an AGC survey released on July 30 found little difference in hiring and purchasing patterns between companies that are doing stimulus-funded work and companies that are not.

Sandherr cites federal agencies’ “disappointingly slow” pace in distributing ARRA funds, except at the Dept. of Transportation. AGC did find, however, that the stimulus has been more successful in helping firms save existing jobs. It says that of the 190 responding firms winning stimulus-funded work, 60% have saved or retained jobs because of the stimulus.

Sandherr says AGC has urged every federal agency responsible for stimulus-financed construction projects to accelerate their programs and to address the existing shortages of contracting officials responsible for overseeing the distribution of funds.

To review the complete AGC stimulus survey results, click here.

Recent federal contracts awarded to companies in North Carolina: Nichols Speedometer & Instrument Inc., Greensboro, N.C; QRP Inc., Leland, NC; White Hawk/Todd J.V.,Spring Lake, NC; Watson Group LLC, Kitty Hawk, NC.; D&G Contractors Inc., Leland, NC.

Click Here to view contract details.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Construction spending dips in June


"For much of the past three years, declines in construction activity have been dominated by residential construction, but this month was very different." — ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu

Private nonresidential construction spending fell by 0.5 percent in June, according to the August 3 report by the U.S. Census Bureau. On a year-over-year basis, private nonresidential construction is down 4.8 percent from June 2008. Overall, total nonresidential construction spending – including both private and public – is up 0.1 percent from May 2009 to $711.9 billion, but down 0.7 percent from June 2008.

Among the sectors showing gains from May to June 2009 are water supply construction, up 4.6 percent, amusement and recreation construction, up 3.7 percent, religious, up 3.4 percent and healthcare construction, up 2.6 percent. Those sectors reporting the largest year-over-year spending increases include manufacturing, up 45.4 percent, public safety, up 14.1 percent and power construction, up 13.3 percent.

In contrast, those sectors posting losses from the previous month include conservation and development, down 5.5 percent, communication, down 5.0 percent and lodging construction, down 3.0 percent. On a year-over-year basis, commercial construction is down 28.2 percent, lodging is lower, down 25.9 percent and communication construction is down 22.5 percent.

Residential construction increased slightly for the month and is up 0.7 percent, but still down 29.3 percent on a year-over-year basis. Overall, total construction spending is up 0.3 percent for the month but is down 10.2 percent from June 2008.

What This Means

“For the first time in recent memory, the economic shoe is on the other foot,” said Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For much of the past three years, declines in construction activity have been dominated by residential construction, but this month was very different.

“Residential construction woes have reversed largely due to government incentives that have stimulated first-time home buying. Monetary policy also has successfully defended low mortgage rates, which has induced demand for housing and new construction,” said Basu. “In contrast, nonresidential construction is now in a period of decline. Many sectors of the nonresidential construction industry will continue to experience declining activity due to rising office vacancy rates, expanding retail vacancy rates, and falling occupancy rates at hotels.

“The exception will be those categories directly impacted by the stimulus package, particularly infrastructure. ABC’s construction backlog indicator supports the notion that infrastructure related construction is set to increase significantly in the months ahead. Those sectors only indirectly related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will likely experience ongoing weakness well into 2010 and perhaps beyond,” said Basu.

For additional data regarding ABC's construction backlog indicator, click Here.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

NCDOT awards highway and bridge projects


Gov. Bev Perdue announced that 15 contracts totaling $29.3 million have been awarded for highway and bridge projects across North Carolina, including seven projects funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The contracts were awarded by Transportation Secretary Gene Conti to the lowest respective bidder, as required by state law. A list of the projects with respective start dates is found at www.ncdot.gov.

“These projects will stimulate economic growth by creating and maintaining jobs as we enhance safety and keep our people traveling,” Perdue said.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, every $1 million spent on transportation creates 30 jobs, and according to the construction industry, every dollar invested in transportation generates $6 in economic impact.

The seven recovery projects awarded are located in Anson, Ashe, Avery, Caldwell, Dare, Forsyth and Hyde counties. The eight other projects awarded are in Brunswick, Cherokee, Cumberland, Iredell, McDowell, Pitt, Rowan and Rutherford counties. Work on the projects will start in late August, September and October

Five additional projects were let to contract in July. Four of them will be awarded if the low bidder demonstrates that it has met “good faith effort” requirements in attempting to reach the disadvantaged business enterprise goals set forth in the contracts. The bids on the fifth project to conduct resurfacing work in Haywood and Jackson counties exceeded the NCDOT engineer’s estimate by more than 21 percent. The bids were rejected, and the project will be rebid at a later date.

The bids received on all 20 projects advertised came in more than 15 percent, about $6.5 million, below NCDOT estimates.

For more information about funding for infrastructure improvements in North Carolina, as well as other NCDOT projects and activities, visit www.ncdot.gov.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Using social media to market yourself online


Contractors can receive valuable advise about marketing their services on the American Express Small business Open Forum. The July 29, 2009 posting describes how the social media offers an opportunity for small business owners to brand themselves as thought-leaders in their industry. Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kutaytanir


There is a huge opportunity to use social media tools to market your products or services directly to customers, but there is an equally large opportunity to utilize social media to market yourself. Social media is an incredible way for small business owners to brand themselves as thought-leaders in their industry. Being seen as an expert by your peers has an amazing upside for small business owners for networking, for developing alternative revenue streams, and for broadening the reach of your existing business.

Social Media Changes the Game

Before social media, becoming a thought leader meant slowly building mindshare by writing articles in trade publications, speaking on the conference circuit, and writing books. Social media, however, has leveled the playing field, making it easier for small business owners to put their ideas out there and become respected industry experts. And the first step is to talk about everything but your business online.

Of course, when I say that, I don't mean to imply that by spending your time talking about your kids or what you ate for breakfast you'll instantly gain acclaim among your peers as an expert in your field. Rather, the lesson is that in order to brand yourself as an industry expert, you need to keep the noise level to a minimum -- and when your goal is to have your peers look to you for ideas, industry news, analysis, and commentary, then marketing related directly to your core business can come across as noise. Instead, you need to focus on providing value to others in your industry.

Why Become a Thought Leader?

Becoming a thought leader isn't easy and it won't happen overnight. So why should you put in the time necessary to build your personal brand (or that of your business) into a trusted source of industry information? The benefits are numerous.
You can generate leads. Marriott Chairman and CEO Bill Marriott often uses his blog to share business wisdom he has learned over his years running the hotel chain. Through the blog, Marriott has established himself as a thought leader in the hotel business, and as a result, the blog has been worth over $5 million per year in hotel room bookings.You can make money from your ideas. Jason Fried, the founder of web application developer 37signals, uses his company's blog to push his ideas about small business and position his company as a leader in business innovation. 37signals has been able to repackage those ideas as a book and a series of conferences that have pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars.You'll gain access. Thought leaders are often invited to speak at conferences, which has the dual benefit of giving you access to amazing networking opportunities and increasing your credibility as an expert in your field.You'll attract top talent. Who you would rather work for, a CEO you've never heard of at a business that remains obscure outside of its core group of customers, or one whom you look up to at a company known for its innovative ideas about its industry? Thought-leadership attracts cream of the crop talent. It's rewarding. Sharing your expertise and knowing that you're having an impact on how business is done in your industry is a rewarding experience.

Four Places to Share Your Expertise

The only way to become known as an expert in your industry is to start providing your peers with a fairly steady stream of useful, relevant, unique, and timely advice. Here are four places you can share your expertise in order to start building your or your company's reputation as a source of industry leadership.
Your Blog - You do have a blog, right? If you don't, start one; and don't just use your blog to provide updates about your company. Balance the marketing with lessons about how and why you make certain business decisions, analysis of industry trends, and editorials about the future direction of the type of business you're in.Twitter - Twitter offers an amazing way to quickly build a following and connect with people on a daily basis. If you make it a habit to share useful information, such as links to worthwhile articles relevant to your industry, people will look at your Twitter stream as a source of expertise. And by engaging your followers in conversations about the things you share and about your thoughts on business, you'll begin to develop a fan base that turns to you for information and leadership.LinkedIn - LinkedIn is a great networking tool for keeping in touch with the people you meet at offline networking events, and keeping on top of changes in their careers. By reaching out through LinkedIn to people you've met, you can build mindshare among your peers, and by answering questions on LinkedIn Answers, you can grow your reputation as a thought leader.Facebook - Most people don't think of Facebook as a place for business, but the fastest growing demographic user group on the site is people over the age of 25, and specifically between the ages of 35 and 54. Becoming an industry expert is about getting your name, your business, and your ideas out there anywhere and everywhere that your peers are -- and that includes Facebook.