BY STEVEN E. SANDHERR
This is the time of year when we would normally be putting the final touches on the preparations for the AGC of America Annual Convention. But this past year has taught us how to be even more nimble, flexible and adaptable. So, we have moved the Annual Convention to the week of September 20 when life — and travel plans — should be closer to normal.
Being flexible in the face of challenges is what helped us keep America building last year. And it is what is going to ensure success as the con-struction industry faces the twin challenges of difficult economic conditions and a rapidly changing political landscape. Our mission in both cases is to convert these challenges into opportunities for members like you.
In early January, AGC of America and our partners at Sage Construction & Real Estate released the 2021 Construction Hiring and Business Outlook. This annual forecast, which is based in large part on member responses to our annual outlook survey, was particularly downbeat. Members predict demand for many types of construction, including office, retail and lodging will decline. They do not expect demand to return to pre-coronavirus levels for many months to come. And far fewer members plan to expand their headcount compared to prior years. You can read more about the Outlook in this issue.
The same week we released our Outlook, two events occurred that fundamentally reshaped the political landscape for the year. First, the two Republican Senators from Georgia lost what should have been easily winnable re-election campaigns, handing control of both houses of Congress and the White House back to the Democrats for the first time since January 2011. The next day, a mob overran Capitol Hill in an ut-terly heartbreaking scene. Their actions undermined efforts by some Republican members of Congress to question the outcome of the Presi-dential election, sending the effort’s backers into short-term political exile. The consequence is that while Democrats have a razor thin majority on paper, they are in a position to enact the kind of extreme measures that seemed off the table on New Year’s Day.
Being flexible in the face of challenges is what helped us keep America building last year. And it is what is going to ensure success as the construction industry faces the twin challenges of difficult economic conditions and a rapidly changing political landscape.
The changing political landscape and difficult economic conditions threaten to undermine efforts to revive the pandemic-scarred economy. But AGC of America is working hard to turn challenge into opportunity for the construction industry. For example, we have already made sure firms that accepted federal Paycheck Protection Program loans are not taxed for the amounts they received. We are now pushing for new in-frastructure investments and calling on Congress and the administration to backfill depleted state and local construction budgets. This will boost demand for many types of construction projects.
We are fighting for liability reform to lift member firms and the broader private sector from the threat of frivolous coronavirus lawsuits. This will help boost overall economic activity. And we are going to work very hard to make sure Congress and the Biden administration understand how imposing new regulatory burdens, including the destabilizing PRO Act, will undermine efforts to revive the economy.
At a minimum, 2021 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for the construction industry. But we have seen tough economies and difficult political environments before. We will use experience, flexibility and the support of engaged members like you, to convert those challenges into the kind of opportunities that will make the end of the year much better than its start.