February 2009: For The Record

Words: Dan KamysFebruary 2009 For The Record Information about the Masonry Industry

Hope on the Horizon

Now that the Obama administration is in place, many Americans are sitting back and waiting to see what will happen with a cautious optimism. President Obama's economic stimulus package promises to provide billions of dollars in contract opportunities to government contractors. The package, which is likely to approach $1 trillion in spending over the next two years, is expected to contain more than $350 billion in spending for projects related to infrastructure improvement, electronic health records, green initiatives and modernization of schools.

There are several ways the stimulus package could drive funding to contractors, including funds for GSA, the military and other agencies operating government buildings to implement green technologies; substantial increases in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers to accelerate infrastructure projects; grants to states for road and bridge construction; grants to state and local governments for modernization of schools, including expanded investment in computers and Internet connectivity; and funding to health providers to accelerate the adoption of electronic medical records.

The kind of momentum created will depend on just how quickly these projects can get underway. According to the Obama administration, the projected number of jobs the stimulus plan will create for the construction industry is 678,000. Considering the industry is actually down by nearly 900,000 construction jobs, we still will have more than 200,000 workers that need jobs.

"That is why we will continue to work with our 33,000 member companies, Congress and the new administration to identify additional measures to put more of the nation's construction workers back on the job, stimulate immediate economic activity and build an economic foundation that benefits generations to come," says Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America.

Green building undoubtedly will play a role in job creation in the construction industry as well. Green building is estimated to be 10 percent to 12 percent of the current commercial and institutional building market, but it will represent 20 percent to 25 percent of new commercial and institutional construction starts by 2013, according to McGraw-Hill Construction's Green Outlook 2009 report, "Trends Driving Change." The report also shows that by 2013, the overall green building market (both residential and non-residential) is likely to more than double from today's $36 to $49 billion, to $96 to $140 billion.

Some cities seem to be keeping their heads above water, thanks to our beloved masonry. In St. Louis, for example, new retail developments and architectural renovation projects have cropped up during the last year, most utilizing masonry products in their overall designs.

"New retail developments are getting back to that 'Main Street' style of shopping," says Darrell McMillian, P.E., executive director of the Masonry Institute of St. Louis. "Architects know the important role masonry plays in the feel of Main Street, so they're designing new retail centers with brick, stone and intricate details. The scale and familiarity of masonry is irreplaceable when it comes to a stroll down Main Street."

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