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How AGC Is Working to Make Sure 2022 Is as Positive as Contractors Expect

stephen e. sandherrBY STEPHEN E. SANDHERR, CEO, AGC OF AMERICA

Each year we survey our member firms on their expectations for labor and market conditions for the coming business year. We then closely analyze those survey results and prepare our annual Construction Hiring and Business Outlook. We once again teamed up with Sage Construction and Real Estate to prepare this year’s outlook and have included their insights into how construction firms are — and will be — using technology to remain competitive.

Over 1,000 firms participated in our 2022 survey, representing a broad range of firms in terms of size, business volume and geographic distribution. Their responses make it clear that contractors are, overall, very optimistic about the outlook for 2022.

They expect demand for most types of projects to increase and, as a result, most firms plan to add staff. Contractors also continue to invest in new technologies that are designed to make them more efficient and effective. Significantly, contractors are far more upbeat about this year than they were at the start of 2021, when our members expected demand for many types of projects to contract and were less bullish in their hiring plans.

Despite the generally optimistic outlook, contractors expect to encounter several significant challenges this year. Chief among those challenges are supply chain problems that are making it hard to budget for and procure key construction materials. And workforce shortages remain severe and are making it difficult for contractors to keep pace with demand.

Meanwhile, the administration’s plans to increase tariffs on Canadian lumber and leave other tariffs in place will lead to higher materials costs at a time when many firms are already struggling with price inflation and supply chain challenges. And while the Supreme Court has all but closed the books on the administration’s vaccine mandate for private employers with 100 or more employees, our legal challenge against their vaccine mandate for federal contractors remains, as of mid-January, unresolved.

Instead of adding to the challenges facing contractors, public officials should be taking steps to help. These steps should include boosting investments in workforce development, particularly for career and technical education programs.

Congress must also rapidly appropriate the funding it promised to deliver when it passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure bill. These new investments are a key reason why contractors are so optimistic about the demand for infrastructure. Yet Congress failed to include these new funds when it passed a temporary spending measure at the end of last year.

And federal officials must avoid imposing new and needless regulatory burdens that will undermine the construction sector’s recovery. We will be paying close attention, for example, to the administration’s planned rewrite of the Waters of the U.S. rule. We will also be on the lookout for any efforts by the administration to impose measures outlined in the dangerous PRO Act.

All the while, we will continue our efforts to get more workers vaccinated. This includes releasing a new series of Spanish-language coronavirus vaccine PSAs to complement the English language versions we released last year. We will continue to work to expand the diversity of the industry via our Culture of CARE and Construction is Essential programs. And we will launch new scholarships and virtual education programs to ensure this industry continues to thrive.

Our ultimate goal is to make sure that contractors’ optimistic outlook for 2022 becomes a reality.