The Push to Make Construction a Priority

In an effort to draw attention to the depressionary conditions the industry faces, three major construction associations announced initiatives to promote recovery and jobs growth. While each takes a differing approach, they share a common goal: to help the construction industry recover from what has become a virtually unprecedented economic downturn.

Both initiatives were introduced on September 30th, the date the five-year federal highway funding bill was set to expire. While the bill was given a month-long reprieve, any forward progress seemed highly unlikely. Thus, at the time this was written, it remained at risk of a threatened 18-month extension - a move that could prove disastrous for construction contractors and the equipment suppliers that serve them.

Concerns over such a delay led the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) and Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) to jointly launch Start Us Up USA!, a grassroots campaign intended to highlight the conditions plaguing the construction industry, and urge the federal government to speed reauthorization of transportation legislation. The organizations point out that demand for construction equipment has declined 50% in the past two years, producing significant layoffs and hardship in the manufacturing and distribution network.

To draw attention to the plight of construction equipment suppliers and the customers they serve, a series of rallies were held featuring presentations by industry leaders and followed by a parade of idle construction equipment. (Visit ForConstructionPros.com's Video Network for exclusive coverage of the Chicago-based event.)

The Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) chose to look beyond federal highway funding in introducing "Build Now for the Future: A Blueprint for Economic Growth". Citing that private construction activity accounts for 70% of the market, this proposed plan includes a series of incentives, tax credits and policy changes designed to stimulate new private sector construction demand, as well as foster investment in publicly funded activity.

According to the AGC, construction spending may decline by as much as $193 billion in 2009 (-18%); construction jobs, which account for 5% of the national workforce, make up 20% of jobs lost this year; and construction unemployment was at 16.5%, nearly double the national average.

In introducing the "blueprint," Stephen E. Sandherr, AGC chief executive officer, stressed that such problems don't just devastate construction firms and their workers. "These problems are crippling our broader economy," he asserts. "That is because construction spending accounts for 8% of gross domestic product and is responsible for one out of every 10 manufacturing shipments and one out of every 12 machinery shipments. Simply put, you can't fix our economy until you fix the construction industry." 

The launch of Start Us Up USA! and the AGC's blueprintwere meant to push Congress and the Obama administration to place construction industry recovery as a top priority on their legislative agenda. Check out how you can get behind this push by visiting http://www.StartUsUpUSA.com or http://www.agc.org/blueprintforgrowth

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