Wednesday, 30 September 2009

AGC unveils construction recovery plan

The Associated General Contractors of America unveiled a new plan designed to revive the hardest hit sector of the economy, the nation's construction industry.

The plan, "Build Now for the Future: A Blueprint for Economic Growth," is designed to reverse predictions that construction activity will continue to shrink through 2010, crippling broader economic growth.

"The problems facing the construction industry aren't just devastating construction workers, they are crippling our broader economy," said Stephen Sandherr, the association's chief executive officer. "Simply put, you can't fix our economy until you fix the construction industry."

The mix of new incentives, tax cuts, policy revisions and infrastructure investments outlined in the plan are needed to stem the dramatic decline in construction activity and employment taking place nationwide, Sandherr said. He added that a new analysis of federal employment data conducted by the association found construction employment declined in 324 of 337 metropolitan areas between August 2008 and 2009. During the one-year period, the industry lost 1 million jobs, Sandherr added.

Between August 2008 and 2009 North Carolina lost 39,600 construction jobs or 17% of the state's construction workforce. The Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord metro area lost 19% of its construction jobs. The Greensboro-High Point area lost 20% of its construction people. Durham-Chapel Hill lost 11% of their construction-related jobs while Raleigh-Cary lost 8700 jobs or 23% of the area's construction employment.

Sandherr said the recovery plan's primary focus was on stimulating new private-sector construction activity, which accounts for 70 percent of the market. He said the plan calls for repealing the alternative minimum tax and increasing and extending a series of tax credits and cuts - including the net operating loss carry back and the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts - to boost investments in real estate development.

He added that new incentives on global investment in real estate were needed to make it easier for international investors to put Americans back to work. And he said Congress should restore the President's "Fast Track" trade promotion authority and remove trade barriers to boost demand for new domestic manufacturing and shipping facilities.

The plan also calls for doubling federal investments in transportation infrastructure, renovating dated and inefficient federal facilities and investing in clean water, flood control and navigation projects. It also calls for restoring the gas tax's lost purchasing power, encouraging more public-private partnerships, expanding the Build America bonds program and exempting construction activity from the private activity bond cap.

The association also identified as part of its plan regulatory revisions that would accelerate many construction projects. These include streamlining environmental reviews, accelerating licensing of new nuclear power plants and establishing a federal multiyear capital budget for public works.

Sandherr added that the federal government needs to encourage more green construction while avoiding counterproductive measures like government mandated labor agreements and new Buy American requirements.

Noting that some of the plan's provisions would have an impact on the federal budget, Sandherr said the association had gone to great lengths to pair new costs with new sources of revenue. For example, the various tax cuts and credits in the plan would be partly offset by increases in income, sales and corporate tax receipts that would come with increased business activity from the plan.

He added that many of the infrastructure investments would be funded by increases in existing user fees, new trust funds, private investments and new bonding authority. He noted studies have found that every billion dollars worth of nonresidential construction activity supports over 28,500 jobs, boosts gross domestic product by $3.4 billion and raises personal earnings by $1.1 billion.

"Putting this plan in place may not be easy, but doing so will unleash a wave of new construction activity, employ thousands, stimulate new investments and lay a foundation for long-term economic prosperity," Sandherr said.

Click Here for detailed AGC recovery plan materials. Click Here for NC employment data by metro areas.

Charlotte OKs $4.5 million in light rail design work

The city of Charlotte is looking at several scenarios how it could pay for a new $457 million light rail project.

The Charlotte Observer reports the city council hired URS Corp. to begin design work on a new 10-mile streetcar line for $4.5 million. Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory had vetoed that decision, saying the city needed a plan to pay for the line before spending the design money. The Democratic majority on the council overturned that veto, letting the project progress.

The council's transportation committee reviewed seven options for paying for the line.

The city has hoped it could borrow money for the streetcar by leveraging taxes from new development along the line. New development could generate $112.2 million in revenue over 20 years, according to a projection.

The city could also create a special taxing district for homes and businesses along the line, which could raise $57.3million over 20 years. That would be a tax increase of 4cents for every $100 of taxable value.

To raise the rest of the streetcar money -- $287.5 million -- the city could enact a citywide tax increase of 2 cents for every $100 of taxable value.

Other scenarios involved receiving $75 million in federal funding and $37.5 million in state money. If that happens, it could lower any needed tax increase.

Another option was to get permission to increase the vehicle registration fee by $30 annually, which could raise $234million.

The streetcar would run from the Rosa Parks Transit Center on Beatties Ford Road to Eastland Mall, via Trade Street uptown. The streetcar was supposed to be built by the Charlotte Area Transit System, but it has been shifted to a city project, in part because CATS doesn't have the money to build it.

The city might build the streetcar in phases. If it built a three-mile line through uptown only, it would need only about $200 million.

The city's work on the streetcar comes as CATS moves forward with plans to build an 11-mile light-rail extension and a commuter-rail line to Lake Norman.

Three north Mecklenburg towns that would benefit from the commuter train have been lobbying for that, causing some to worry that Mecklenburg County is no longer unified in planning new transit. The Metropolitan Transit Commission is tasked with deciding when and where the county expands transit.

Click Here to view the complete Charlotte Observer article.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

NCDOT stimulus surge creates 1,300 new jobs

The nearly $1 billion in federal “recovery” funds that the North Carolina Department of Transportation received earlier this year stimulated significant growth in jobs and payroll last month, reported the Triad Business Journal.

A total of 3,449 employees worked on stimulus-funded construction projects for the NCDOT in August – a 59 percent leap from the 2,170 employees who got stimulus work in July, the NCDOT data shows.

The gains were even more dramatic in terms of hours worked and payroll. Companies working on stimulus-funded projects for NCDOT paid workers nearly $3.3 million for 196,920 hours worked in August. Both figures are almost double the July totals of 99,561 hours and $1.7 million in payroll.

The July numbers include revisions that have been made since NCDOT first released the figures about a month ago.

Stimulus payroll spending has grown steadily since April, when just $22,751 was paid out to 74 workers, according to NCDOT data.

NCDOT has received a total of $838 million in federal stimulus funds, including $735 million for road and bridge projects. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1 million spent on transportation creates 30 jobs.

Click Here to read the Triad Business Journal article.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

NC bankruptcy court invalidates subcontractor’s lien

T. Erwin, Jr. is the Managing Partner of the Charlotte law firm of Erwin and Eleazer, P.A. He is also NC counsel for the American Subcontractors Association of the Carolinas

A. Thomas Small, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina, issued an order on July 30, 2009 that the liens on funds and real estate filed in the state court by a second tier subcontractor were void and of no effect because the liens were served and filed after the first tier subcontractor had filed a Chapter 11 petition in bankruptcy.

Section 362(a)(4) of the Bankruptcy Code provides that a petition for relief operates as a stay or bar of “any act to create, perfect or enforce any lien against property of the estate.”

However there is an exception under Section 362(b)(3) which provides that a petition for relief does not operate as a stay “of any act to perfect, or to maintain or continue the perfection of…an interest in property…” of the bankrupt estate.

Many construction attorneys have taken the position that the filing of the Notice of Claim of Lien and Lien on Real Estate after the filing of the bankruptcy petition is an “act to perfect …an interest in property” and is thus within the exception of Section 362(b)(3).

Judge Small did not accept this approach and held that the lien on funds does not exist until the notice is served upon the party from whom the money is owed and that because giving of a Notice of Claim of Lien Upon Funds is the predicate upon which a Subrogation Claim of Lien on Real Property can be made, service of the Lien on Funds and the filing of the lien on real estate after the bankruptcy petition has been filed does not fall within the exception.

Accordingly, under Judge Small’s opinion, subcontractors can only be fully protected by serving and by filing both liens prior to and before a petition for bankruptcy is filed.

Architectural billing index falls in August

Yesterday, the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) released the following analysis in it's Data DIGest, a weekly summary of economic news:

"While there have been occasional signs of optimism over the last few months, the overwhelming majority of architects are reporting that banks are extremely reluctant to provide financing for projects, and that new equity requirements and conservative appraisals are making it even more difficult for developers to get loans,” American Institute of Architects Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in releasing the latest Architecture Billings Index.

“Until the anxiety within the financial community eases, these conditions are likely to continue.” The index, which measures the difference in rising less falling billings among responding firms, was at 41.7 in August, down from 43.1 in July; anything below 50 is a net decrease.

Among subsectors, however, the 45.6 reading for commercial/industrial practices tied the highest level since January 2008, and the index for residential (mainly multifamily) practices rose for the sixth time in eight months, to 43.4. The readings for institutional and mixed practices were virtually unchanged at 37.5 and 41.4. (Sector indexes are three-month averages.) The index is an indicator of future demand for building construction.

New construction starts in August rose 2% from July at a seasonally adjusted annual rate, but fell 33% year-to-date (YTD), comparing the first eight months of 2009 combined to the same span in 2008, McGraw-Hill Construction (MHC) reported on Friday, based on its own data collection.

Click Here to read the complete Data DIGest economic analysis.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Congressional failure to pass highway and transit legislation hurts construction industry

Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC)issued the following statement in response to Congressional failure to pass vital surface transportation legislation before the current federal program expires at the end of the month:

“As one of the largest components of the U.S. economy, America’s construction companies depend on the nation’s transportation network for their success. When building materials and supplies are stuck in traffic and workers are late because of unreliable roads or delayed transit systems, construction companies suffer. Addressing the growing congestion, capacity and maintenance challenges facing our highways, bridges and public transportation systems is essential to supporting an industry that contributed to over 17 million American jobs last year.

“The cost – in wasted fuel, lost productivity and wasted opportunity – of continued under-investment in our transportation network will only grow if we don’t act now. Congress and the Obama Administration must follow the guidance of numerous high-level, bipartisan commissions in restoring highway and transportation user fees to previous purchasing levels by raising the gas tax to $0.36 per gallon, and streamlining federal transportation programs. With double-digit unemployment and an almost 20 percent decline in construction activity this year, tens of thousands of construction firms are relying on Washington to put an end to the gridlock that is sapping revenue and costing jobs.”

For more details click Here.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Triangle ranks high in '08 N.C. economic data

The Triangle may be taking a beating in the recession, but it started its economic slide from an enviable position, the News & Observer reports. Wake County was the most prosperous of the state's large counties in 2008, according to U.S. Census data.

Its median household income of about $65,000 topped the state median income of $46,500 by nearly 40 percent. And fewer than 13 percent of its residents lacked health insurance, compared with nearly 16 percent statewide.

Durham, Orange and Johnston counties were also among the state's 10 richest counties.

The data included only places with more than 65,000 residents, so more than half the state's counties and all but 14 towns and cities were excluded.

Among those municipalities, Cary was far and away the richest place in the state.
The swelling suburban town had a median household income of nearly $92,000, almost twice the state's median income and $35,000 more than its closest competing city, Concord.

And only about 6 percent of Cary's residents lacked health insurance, compared with about 16 percent statewide.

Neighboring Raleigh, by comparison, had a median income of less than $54,000, and nearly 17 percent of its residents were uninsured.

The Charlotte area ranked fourth on the median-income lists.

The state's poorest large counties were Robeson, south of Fayetteville, and Wilkes, in the mountains, with household incomes of about $30,000.

Click Here to view recently released census data in the
News & Observer.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Stimulus grants will help NC boost energy efficiency; create green-energy jobs

The Charlotte Observer reports North Carolina will receive $20.9 million in federal energy-efficiency grants.

The economic stimulus grants are intended to reduce energy use while creating new jobs in North Carolina. Sixty percent of the grants will go to smaller cities and counties, with the rest distributed to public school districts, community colleges and other local agencies.

The Department of Energy estimated that the grants will create or save 300 jobs.

North Carolina will focus the grants on increasing energy efficiency in buildings and transportation, providing technical assistance and turning methane gas captured at landfills into electricity.

An additional $37.4 million has been designated for 31 of the state's larger cities and counties. Charlotte will get nearly $6.8 million of that money and Mecklenburg County $649,500.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in announcing the state grants, said the NC manufacturing base, while slumping, provides fertile ground for an expansion of green-energy jobs.

He said the state's research base, including companies clustered at Research Triangle Park near Raleigh, gives it an edge in developing new technologies while its wealth of biomass resources, such as waste wood, can also be used to make clean electricity.

He compared North Carolina's energy efficiency efforts so far to that of California.

The two states used comparable amounts of electricity per household in 1982. Since then, he said, Californians have reduced their energy bills 39 percent compared to N.C. residents, despite higher electric rates.

He said studies show that legislation to lower carbon dioxide emissions, which Chu said he's hopeful will be passed this year, would increase family energy costs by about $100 to $200 a year.

Friday's announcement brings to nearly $339 million North Carolina will receive in federal stimulus money. The largest portions go to weatherization programs ($132 million), the State Energy Office ($76 million), energy efficiency ($58 million) and advanced battery research ($49 million).

In response to questions, Chu praised North Carolina's support of nuclear energy, which the administration supports, and the state's wind-energy potential. The state could create 10,000 to 20,000 jobs in making parts for wind energy, he said.

Click Here to read the complete Charlotte Observer article.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Construction starts up 13% in August vs. July

Reed Construction Data (RCD) announced that the year-to-date value of construction starts through August 2009, excluding residential contracts, totaled $162.3 billion, 13.0% less than in the same period in 2008. Individual month of August starts were 12.7% higher than in July. The large August gains were a combination of heavy stimulus projects getting underway and a continuing offset to the exceptionally low level of June starts.

The June-August starts average is on track with previous months after allowing for the usual seasonal improvement during the summer and the startup of stimulus projects. It is also consistent with the Reed Construction Data forecast which expects construction spending to dip slightly into the winter before growth resumes.

The value of construction starts each month is summarized from RCD’s database of all active construction projects in the United States, excluding single-family homes. Missing project values are estimated using RSMeans’ building cost models.

The largest gains in August were for the stimulus targeted markets — bridges ($1.273 billion), dams and marine ($0.663 billion), water/sewage ($0.627 billion) and highways ($0.605 billion) — plus miscellaneous commercial ($0.917 billion) and amusement ($0.501 billion). The stimulus-targeted markets will have rising starts for several more months and then starts will remain high well into next year.

The starts report does not yet clearly show the stimulus impact on building markets although education, library/ museum and government offices all posted $0.3 billion gains in August. The stimulus impact on building starts will be primarily in 2010 as expected. The only significant decline was $1.043 billion for hospitals after two strong months.

Both manufacturing and miscellaneous civil starts remained very high in August due to energy-related projects including power generation and distribution, oil and gas field facilities and refinery retrofitting to produce cleaner fuels. This investment surge will not persist much longer in the face of depressed energy demand.

Manufacturing capacity utilization, while now rising again, is near the record low level.

Click Here to read the entire article.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Construction costs down from a year ago

Despite increases in construction costs in August, new figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that prices for the sector remain significantly down from a year ago, Ken Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America reports.

Simonson noted that the Producer Price Index (PPI) for inputs to construction industries, a weighted average of the costs of all materials used in every type of construction, increased 1.1 percent in August compared to the previous month. He noted that the monthly increase was caused by a 17 percent increase in the cost of diesel, a 6.8 percent jump in steel prices and an 11 percent rise in copper prices compared to July, 2009.

However, he said the overall trend for construction costs remains negative. As compared to August 2008, the cost of construction is down 7.4 percent. And despite the monthly increases, the cost of diesel is still down 41 percent, steel down 36 percent and copper down 14 percent from the previous year. Simonson added that prices for each of the three components have already declined since the end of August.

“Prices haven’t been this competitive for construction services in a long time, but once the domestic and global economy heats up, they are likely to rise again,” said Simonson. “Public officials and private developers should act now to cash in on what is clearly a limited-time sale for construction.”

Click here for a link to the new producer price index data.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

NC Buildling Code Council requires electronic breakers all through houses

New homes will have to be built with an electronic switch designed to prevent electrical fires after a state agency halted an effort to scale back use of the devices.

The News and Observer reports the Building Code Council, which sets minimum building standards, had for more than a year considered rescinding a requirement that arc fault circuit interrupters be installed for all living areas in new homes. The breakers were already required for bedrooms.

On Friday, Gov. Beverly Perdue, who appoints council members, sent a letter expressing her support for keeping the code requirement that they be installed in all living areas of a house. Her letter apparently changed minds.

On Tuesday, the council unanimously decided to keep the requirement in place.

Kim Reitterer, a Charlotte electrical engineer and council member who has been a vocal supporter of the devices, said the governor's letter likely reversed the council's intention to roll back use of the breakers.

The breakers electronically sense fluctuations that could be a sign that electrical current is slowly leaking, possibly through an exposed wire. If the current continues to leak, heat can build until a fire starts.

Opponents say the devices can sometimes trip for no reason and such nuisances could lead homeowners to swap them out for standard breakers. But Perdue said in her letter that the devices were worth whatever downsides they had.

"The real benefits of fires prevented and injuries and deaths averted do outweigh the incremental cost and the occasional nuisance tripping," Perdue wrote in her letter.

Click Here to view the complete News & Observer article.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

How mandatory E-Verify on federal construction works

On Sept. 9, 2009, a rule took effect requiring contractors at all tiers of domestic federal construction projects to enroll in and use the federal government’s E-Verify system to verify employment eligibility.

The rule requires enrollment for contractors on new federal projects valued at $100,000 or more and lasting over 120 days, and all subcontractors performing more than $3,000 of work on those contracts.

Any contractor or subcontractor required to use E-Verify must enroll in the system within 30 days of being awarded its contract. When enrolling in the E-Verify system, contractors must select a special option designating them as a federal contractor. This will lead users to a tutorial that explains requirements specific to E-Verify.

Federal contractors previously registered to use E-Verify must update their registration upon receiving a new federal contract and complete the tutorial to satisfy new requirements. Updated guidance for federal contractors is posted on the E-Verify Web site,

For more information, see the updated American Subcontractors Association Special Report: E-Verify Required for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors, available in the “Immigration Reform” section of the “ASA Federal Advocacy” page of ASA’s Web site,

Monday, 14 September 2009

Signs point to slow growth

Campbell R. Harvey, the J. Paul Sticht Professor of International Business at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business, writes a recent blog on the economy. Highlights were published in the News & Observer.

Given the decrease in job losses and other favorable (or less bad) news, it appears as if the economic storm is abating -- or is it the calm that you feel when the eye of the hurricane passes over?

There is unambiguous information that the rate of job losses is decelerating. "Only" 216,000 jobs were lost in August. The unemployment rate increased to 9.7 percent due to three reasons: (a) the job losses in August; (b) a revision upwards in the job losses in July; and (c) new people entering the labor force -- perhaps re-entering after a prolonged period of unemployment.

However, in my opinion, there is very little to call "good news" here.

Let's summarize:

•We have lost 5.02 percent of the labor force to unemployment during this recession, over 6.9 million jobs.

•This is now the worst episode in the post-WWII period. (This month it became worse than 1948.)

•This is not the end. Remember the government stress test has the "worst case scenario" of 10.3 percent in 2010. We are getting close to that now.

•We have yet to see the peak in foreclosures and defaults in both residential and commercial real estate. That should happen sometime in 2010.

•We will see surprisingly positive growth in the third quarter, and people will declare the recession over.

Even if such declarations are true, we are not out of the woods. The combination of three economic forces will slow growth in 2010:

•A new wave of stress on the financial system due to surging defaults on prime mortgages and commercial real estate.

•The continued constraints that small- and medium-sized businesses face in getting credit. These businesses drive employment growth.

•Little or no action from consumer spending -- which represents 70 percent of GDP. Consumers need to protect themselves by saving. No job is safe right now.

Let me comment a bit on the consumer. The consumer has taken multiple body blows:

•A dramatic wealth hit due to degradation in the value of their main asset -- housing. Indeed, for most homeowners with mortgages, their equity has been wiped out (or negative).

•A wealth hit due to a drop in the value of other holdings, like 401(k)s.

•Unemployment and fear of potential future unemployment.

•Unease over future obligations as the government racks up record deficits and debt.

You put this all together, and it seems unlikely that the consumer is going to be the engine of the recovery. Savings rates were driven to very low levels during good times. This recession is shockingly bad, and it caught most consumers by surprise. Indeed, we really haven't had a deep recession in almost 30 years -- people forget.

The result is caution. Consumers will build their savings for three reasons. First, many fear losing their jobs -- or being paid less in the future. Second, the savings were close to zero to start with. Third, they want some insurance for the future.

All of this spells slow growth.

I am not sure when they will officially date the end of the recession. I had originally forecast the end of 2009. However, the more important issue has to do with growth prospects going forward.

The data will be difficult to interpret. We will see strong third-quarter growth that is really due to government spending (which cannot be indefinitely maintained) and some inventory adjustment (firms have let inventories run so low that there needs to be some production to restock). Neither of these positive forces is sustainable.

While I am more pessimistic than most, let me say something optimistic. The Unites States is in far better shape than European countries or Japan.

So while this might seem for the U.S. to be a painful period of slow growth, we will gain ground globally with respect to other developed countries.

Click Here to read the complete blog on the economy.

Friday, 11 September 2009

$139 Million in construction contracts awarded to fifteen NC firms

The North Carolina Military Business Center (NCMBC) announced yesterday $139 million in federal construction contract were awarded to North Carolina businesses.

“We are extremely pleased to see these contract awards to outstanding North Carolina businesses, who won because they offered the best value solution to the government. The NCMBC is pleased to work with great companies like these and with federal agencies to increase awards to North Carolina firms.” said Scott Dorney, NCMBC Executive Director.

The following North Carolina companies have been awarded contracts by the Federal government:

•The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic has announced that eight North Carolina companies have been awarded Multiple Award Construction Contracts (MACC) worth a total of $90,000,000. S. T. Wooten and Trade Construction Co. both of New Bern, NC; Onslow Grading & Paving, Inc., Morton Trucking and TEAM Construction of Jacksonville, NC; Barnhill Contracting Company of Tarboro, NC; Sunland Builders, Inc and Joyce & Associates of Newport, NC have each been awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity MACC for paving and civil type projects at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and all outlying fields and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (including New River Air Station), and other military and government installations/sites in North Carolina.

Guerrero Builders of Raeford, NC, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, was awarded a $1,199,507.00 contract by the Department of Veterans Affairs using Recovery Act funds to Modernize Building 13 at the Hefner Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salisbury, NC.

ECC Construction, LLC of Raleigh, NC, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, was awarded a $532,850.00 contract to Expand Physical and Occupational Therapy and a $2,235,500.00 contract for Removal and Replacement of Existing Air Handling Units. Both contracts were awarded by the Department of Veterans Affairs using Recovery Act funds for work at the Durham VA Medical Center, Durham, NC.

Seven Hills Construction of Salisbury, NC, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, was awarded a $1,554,471.00 contract by the Department of Veterans Affairs using Recovery Act funds for HVAC replacement and upgrade in Building 5 at the Hefner Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salisbury, NC.

TEAM Construction, LLC of Jacksonville, NC, a small disadvantaged, 8(a), woman-owned business, was awarded a $2,971,500.00 contract by the US Army Corps of Engineers to relocate 14 Air Support Operations Squadron at Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, NC.

Roberson Contracting, Inc. of Williamston, NC, a small business, was awarded an $856,788.20 contract by the Department of Transportation for work at the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge, NC.

Gaines Construction, LLC of Knightdale, NC, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, was awarded a $995,112.00 contract by the Department of Veterans Affairs using Recovery Act funds to replace Underground Chilled Water and Domestic Water Lines at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Salisbury, NC.

Ikhana/Choate-1, LLC of Mount Pleasant, SC and Raleigh, NC was awarded a $13,385,855.00 contract by the Department of the Navy to design/build two child development centers at Camp Lejeune, NC.

Facility Construction LLC of Fayetteville, NC, an 8(a) joint venture, was awarded a $25,000,000.00 indefinite delivery contract by the National Institutes of Health for renovations and alterations at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, NC.

As a component of the North Carolina Community College System, the NCMBC leverages military and other federal business opportunities, to assist firms located in North Carolina that wish to get into or expand their footprint in Federal government contracting, both as a contractor and subcontractor. Businesses notified or assisted by the NCMBC since it opened in 2005 have won at least 700 contract awards worth $1.82 to $3.44 billion.

For more information on the above announcements, please contact the North Carolina Military Business Center at 910-323-4892, toll free at 877-245-5520 or visit NCMBC online at

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Web-based services take the hassle out of managing subcontractors

BD+C blogger Jeff Yoders sees general contractors looking to technology for an edge in the slowing commercial construction market. Web-based bidding programs are helping them to connect bid information, subcontractors, and proposals. A 2008 survey by the Construction Financial Management Association found that 62% of general contractors participated in Web-based construction bidding, vs. 43% in 2006.

Web-based bid invitation programs, such as ABCNextPlans, Carolinas AGC IBuild, ARC,,, etc. give general contractors a private, secure place to invite subcontractors and suppliers to view and bid on their projects, distribute construction documents, and streamline the bidding process.

Yoders says SmartBidNet and the recently launched Smart Project News are quickly gaining customers. SmartBidNet, College Station, Texas, is the brainchild of founder and president James Benham. Benham invented the program while he was a student at Texas A&M as a replacement for fax-based subcontractor management services such as Bidfax. Unlike other programs, SmartBidNet is aimed directly at the general contractor. It makes mundane tasks such as subcontractor bidding, RFIs, and the sharing of construction documents easier.

Smart Project News is a recently launched online subscription service created to provide both general contractors and subcontractors with project information and leads. Users can browse thousands of commercial construction projects from parent company Reed Construction Data’s North American project databases and quickly identify the jobs with the most potential. (Reed Construction Data and BD+C are owned by the same parent corporation, Reed Elsevier, Inc.)

Smart Project News users can select a specific project stage—planning, bidding, post-bid, etc.—to search for project opportunities, or they can cast a wider net and search for all projects in the database. Users can also limit their searches by distance, Zip code, (e.g., “10-mile radius from Charlotte, N.C.”), project value, bid date, and owner type. You can also limit searches to prequalified and invited bidders. You can save projects you’re interested in into a tab on the Smart Project News site and submit bids online. Users can also set up automated e-mail updates for projects in their area.

The project listings provide names and phone numbers of the entire Building Team for a post-bid project; for most projects, the service also supplies plans that can be downloaded as image files. For projects in the planning stage, Smart Project News provides an owner contact, general project information telling where the project lead was originally published, and special categories (e.g., “federal stimulus package project”).

Subscription costs for Smart Project News are determined by the location (state, province, or metro area).Customers can also go to and buy leads by the project through Reed Construction Data’s SmartLeads service. The service was launched in August.

“As bonding is ratcheted up we’re seeing prequalification happening more often,” said SmartBidNet’s Benham. “Our sales cycle has picked up as a result of that. Our customers are fighting for the work out there.”

To read the complete BD+C blog posting, click Here.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Federal contractors required to use E-Verify

This week agencies across the federal government will start ordering contractors to use an electronic system to verify whether their employees are eligible to work in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal reports the sweeping new mandate represents a significant expansion for the so-called E-Verify system, which government officials and independent experts expect to eventually become mandatory for private employers. Already, some states require companies operating within their borders to use it, regardless of whether the companies have government contracts.

About 169,000 federal contractors and subcontractors, who employ roughly 3.8 million workers, will eventually be covered by the program taking effect yesterday.

U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr. rejected an 11th-hour-effort late Friday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to delay the mandate while a federal appeal is pending. Upset about the liability the mandate puts on employers, the groups suing argue it is illegal for the government to extend E-Verify to contractors through an executive order. The Chamber argues that given the state of the economy, this isn't the time to add more costs to U.S. businesses.

Under the mandate, a clause requiring contractors and subcontractors to use the government's E-Verify system will be written into every new or renewed government contract. It will also be written into every new work order issued under existing contracts, officials say. It will be up to government agencies that issue the contracts to enforce the mandate.

Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president of the Professional Services Council, which represents federal contractors, said virtually all employers with federal contracts or subcontracts would see the clause within about a year. The group has been holding seminars to help employers prepare for the mandate. Among other things, they must learn how to enroll in the system and use the government's Web site.

After an E-Verify provision is put into its contract, a federal contractor or subcontractor will have 30 days to enroll in the E-Verify system. Each employer must sign a memorandum of understanding with the government to use E-Verify.

Contractors use a secure Web site to check the legal status of workers involved in a government project, except for some who are exempt because of security clearances. In about 97% of the cases, they should receive an immediate electronic response confirming the employee's eligibility to work. In other cases, they'll receive a "tentative non-confirmation" notice; contractors and employees will then have eight days to try to address any problems with the Social Security Administration or immigration officials.

The mandate isn't a surprise to contractors. Its implementation has been delayed since January; the final rules outlining it were published by the federal government in November 2008.

Some contractors have already enrolled in the system, which began as a voluntary program. Trade groups and the government expect many others to wait to enroll until the provision is put in their contract.

Once a contractor is operating under the new clause, it will have to check the legal eligibility of every employee working on a government project through a secure Web site. The E-Verify system compares data entered by employers with records maintained in Social Security Administration and immigration databases.

While the system's error rates have fallen dramatically in the past several years, it still falsely flags as illegal about 1% of all workers checked, because of mistakes in the Social Security and immigration data, said Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. That means up to about 38,000 employees for federal contractors could have to try to get false information corrected in government databases.

Another gap: While the system verifies documentation, it doesn't verify identities. That means illegal workers who use the identities of those who are authorized to work inside the U.S. are hard to catch.

Click Here to read the complete Wall Street Journal article.

Monday, 7 September 2009

NC military business center to host business development workshops

The NC Military Business Center (NCMBC)identifies military and other federal business opportunities for NC contractors that wish to get into or expand their footprint in government contracting.

NCMBC announced the following state-wide events open to NC-based construction contractors:

September 9th: Selling to the Federal Government Workshop at Fayetteville Technical Community College instructed by NCMBC Business Development Specialist, Linn Owen. This seminar will provide businesses the tools needed to pursue work with the Federal government. Topics to be discussed are methods of procurement, socio-economic small business programs, registration and codes required to work with the government.

September 9th: Government Purchasing Opportunities Seminar at Coastal Carolina Community College is offering a free seminar on government purchasing opportunities in the Melton Skills Center, Room 110. The seminar will focus on using and allow participants to create business profiles and access government purchasing opportunities.

September 15th: Advance Contracting Workshop: Leveraging ‘Green Procurement’ Business Opportunities on Military Installations in North Carolina instructed by NCMBC Business Development Specialist, Diana Potts at Fayetteville Technical Community College in the Advanced Technology Center room 116.

September 15-18th: Western North Carolina Training Events, the following events will provide businesses with hands-on training to explore the federal marketplace, federal small business programs, registering as government contractors and identifying and competing for contract opportunities.

September 15th: Blue Ridge Community College at the Technology Education & Development Center from 1:30-4:30 pm.

September 16th: Regional Hi Tech Center in Waynesville, NC from 1:30-4:00 pm.

September 17th: CCC&TI Watauga Campus Continuing Education Center in the Continuing Education Center, Room 109 from 8:30-11:30 am. Wilkes Community College: Ashe Campus from 1:30-4:30 pm.

September 18th: Southwestern Community College: Franklin Campus in the Cecil Grove Center, Room 108 from 8:30-11:30 am.

September 21st: Small Business Conference for Veterans at Fayetteville Technical Community College co-hosted by NCMBC, SBA and SBTDC. This half day event will offer veterans, active duty, reservists, and their spouses the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship in two tracks: (1) starting a business; or (2) expanding a small business. Business seminar topics include Government Contracting Basics, Subcontracting, Financing a Business and Business Start-up Basics. Participants will have an opportunity to network with other veteran business owners and service providers to help them become successful business owners.

September 24th: Doing Business with the Government at Beaufort Community College instructed by NCMBC Business Development Specialist Bert Linkonis. At this seminar, businesses will be introduced to the Federal procurement process; the registration and notification process; and how to respond to solicitations.

September 29th: Small Business Resource Summit at UNC Burney Center in Wilmington, NC. This event is designed for individuals considering starting small companies or farms to access information about the many resource agencies in the community equipped to assist small business owners. The summit is a “one-stop shopping” opportunity with small business and farm service providers, including providers of loan, grants and technical and educational services. The service providers will have exhibitor tables and will be available for questions.

October 27th: 4th Annual Military Construction (MILCON) Summit at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, NC. The purpose of the event is to connect government officials with prime and specialty contractors, designers and construction suppliers in North Carolina. Businesses in North Carolina will develop contacts and information critical to leveraging $5-7 billion in MILCON opportunities in North Carolina by 2013. Businesses interested in attending the Summit should visit to register. This year’s MILCON Summit is expected to exceed 650 attendees.

Contractors and subcontractors notified or assisted by the NCMBC since it opened in 2005 have won at least 694 contract awards worth $1.81 to $3.43 billion.

Click here for more information.

Friday, 4 September 2009

NC new crane safety standards enacted with support of local contractors and crane rental companies

North Carolina's department of labor has launched a new crane safety standard, developed with the support of local contractors and crane rental companies.

Cranes Today magazine reports the new standard expands the scope of earlier versions standard to include the wide range of new types of cranes that have been developed during the past 30 years. It requires sites use a qualified person to address key hazards associated with crane assembly and disassembly. It implements certification and qualification requirements for operators and signallers. It includes specific best practice policies for work near power lines, or with barges. It updates requirements for a range of safety devices and equipment.

The standard was developed in collaboration with Skanska, Balfour Beatty Construction, Heede Southeast, BE&K, Cox & Schepp, Edifice, Arcadis, and Buckner Companies.

“This new standard is so important for North Carolina,” said Chip Pocock, safety and risk manager for Buckner Companies. “It shows you just how progressive North Carolina is by taking the lead nationally and promulgating this standard. It will clearly benefit all who work in the construction industry and will bring more and better qualified crane operators to our state.”

NCDOL’s education, training and technical assistance bureau is offering training classes starting in September across the state to educate workers on the new standard.

Click here to read the new cranes and derricks regulations that take effect October 1, 2009.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Energy retrofits slightly stimulated by stimulus bill

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was meant to stimulate the U.S. economy — so far seems to have had a beneficial but lackluster impact on the home energy retrofit market, reports the online blog Earth2Tech.

The $4.3 billion in stimulus tax credits for better insulation, double-paned windows, and other energy-saving measures are having a “small but positive” effect on the home remodeling market, research firm Canaccord Adams concludes in a recent report.

Any uptick is welcome in this struggling economy, but such modest results after six months raise the question of whether or not the credits will be able to generate $6 billion in remodeling activity through next year, which was the fed’s original estimate.

The report doesn’t dig into how much remodeling activity the credits have delivered to date, but it took a look at other indicators like a building index and various media reports. One reason for less-than-stellar growth is the structure of the tax credits, says Matt Golden, president of home energy retrofitter Sustainable Spaces. If you purchase energy-saving windows, roofs and heating systems, you are eligible for tax credits that are worth 30 percent of the cost of the purchase, up to a maximum of $1,500. But the bulk of the cost of a home energy retrofit is for labor, for which the tax credits don’t apply.

The stimulus bill favors solar PV and other more expensive renewable-energy technologies over energy efficiency home retrofits, Golden says. For example, residential rooftop solar systems are eligible for 30 percent tax credits with no upper limit.

Still, spending on home remodels appears to be on a slight upward trend, and some home owners who are putting in new kitchens or breaking down interior walls are adding in energy-saving features, according to Canaccord.

The National Association of Home Builders earlier this month released its “remodeling index” for the second quarter of this year. The index, which measures the sentiment of remodelers and doesn’t include expenditure data, indicated “modest gains” over the first quarter of 2009.

Clearly, tax credits alone won’t be able to spur the market for home retrofits. As long as people are pessimistic about the economy, many will forgo spending on retrofitting their home, even if it saves them money in the long run. As the economy regains steam, so should energy retrofits, with or without the tax credits.

To read the complete Green2Tech article, click here.

Raleigh-Cary construction market remains among 20 worst hit by recession

While some projects, such as East 54 in Chapel Hill, are employing construction workers, a cloud continues to hang over the industry.

The Triangle Business Journal reports the job market for construction workers in the Triangle continued to shrink in July, with the Raleigh-Cary metropolitan statistical area again ranking among the 20 hardest hit MSAs in the United States.

A report by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) found 29,700 construction jobs in the Raleigh-Cary area in July. That’s down 8,600 jobs, or 22 percent, from the same month last year. The rapid rate of decline ranks Raleigh-Cary at number 310 in construction employment growth among the 336 metro areas studied by the AGC.

The Raleigh-Cary MSA, which comprises Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties, posted a 24 percent drop in June, ranking number 334 out of 351 metros studied that month.

The Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area also lost construction jobs in July, but not quite at the same clip as Raleigh-Cary did. The area comprising Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties had 8,800 construction jobs in July, a drop of 1,400, or 14 percent in 12 months.

AGC’s analysis found that construction employment declined in 319 of the nation’s largest communities. Only 11 areas saw increases between July 2008 and July 2009.

"These figures make it clear that construction workers in nearly every community nationwide are out of work and short on prospects," said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist.

AGC’s chief executive, Stephen Sandherr, notes that municipalities are moving slowly to spend federal stimulus dollars. “Coping with the red tape required by the stimulus ought to be worth it to help put neighbors and friends back to work,” he said, noting that state agencies are making progress in distributing stimulus money for transportation projects.

Statewide, North Carolina had just 192,400 construction jobs in July, an 18.2 percent decline from a year ago, the AGC reported earlier.

The pain was felt by all of the North Carolina metros tracked by the AGC. Durham’s performance was the best in the state. Next best were the Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton and Winston-Salem areas with 13 percent declines. Construction employment dropped 15 percent in the Asheville and Burlington metro areas.

The worst hit areas were Raleigh-Cary, Greensboro-High Point and Greenville, each with a 22 percent drop.

Construction employment fell by the following amounts in the remaining North Carolina metros:

• Rocky Mount, 17 percent;

• Fayetteville, 18 percent;

• Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, 20 percent;

• Wilmington, 20 percent.

Click here to read the complete AGC report.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

New NC crane regs take effect October 1

Buckner Companies CEO Eddie Williams congratulates NC Dept. of Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry for leadership in enacting stricter construction crane regulations for workplace safety.

“North Carolina will soon have the most forward thinking crane safety standards in our country,” Doug Williams, President of Buckner Companies, announced yesterday at the firm’s Graham headquarters.

Williams said over a year ago, the NC Department of Labor, under the proactive leadership of Commissioner Cherie Berry, took the high road by endeavoring to enact a version of the proposed federal standards. He also thanked State Senator Bob Atwater for his efforts to pass this legislation. Williams said contractors and the public will be safer now because of these new rules.

The federal government has been working on revising its 15-year old OSHA crane standard since 1998.

Buckner Companies had two seats on the 22-seat federal Crane and Derrick Advisory Committee (C-DAC). The new NC regulations mirror the C-DAC draft with very few exceptions. Some of the enacted changes include:

* Expanding the scope of the standard to include new types of cranes that have been developed in the past 30 years.

* Guidelines to ensure ground conditions are adequate to prevent tip-overs.

* Instituting a certification requirement for crane operators.

The effective date of the new NC law is October 1, 2009. Visit for additional details.