What Keeps You Awake at Night

Burke Nicholson

November 2005

At last month’s AWCI Industry Executives’ Conference & Committee Week, I asked members and the board of directors about a few key issues concerning our industry. Their responses were quite interesting.

Regarding the issue of securing a trained work force that gives eight hours of work for eight hours of pay, I heard a variety of opinions on hiring challenges. Helpful was a seminar on 2020 by Chip Toth of FMI, who pointed out some key distinctions in today’s work force. Baby Boomers, for one, often carry a self-centered attitude. They believe they can do anything. The younger Generation Xers, a much smaller segment of our work force, in general have less company loyalty, probably from being raised in an environment different from the Baby Boomers. The youngest group, Generation Y, works for recognition, advancement and achievement. In addition, our immigrant work force brings many different cultural motivations that demographics have yet to fully define.

Another issue discussed was the cost and availability of insurance. Most people I talked to say it’s getting better. In California, workers’ compensation costs have dropped roughly 20 percent. In addition, a thank you goes to the "Govenator” for signing new legislation limiting a subcontractor’s liability to their scope of work in the residential market. Our efforts with the American Subcontractors Association worked, and now we go after commercial and public works.

There were many other issues I discussed, including retention, prompt pay and change orders. Clear to me is that our problems are pretty much the same across the nation. And they are getting worse because the Gulf Coast disasters have spiked fuel and materials costs, and they almost certainly will result in labor and materials scarcities as well.

It’s going to be a challenging year or two, but most of those I talked to are optimistic. Challenges present opportunities, and we are builders and problem-solvers who will rise to the challenges. To solve these problems AWCI will continue to partner with ASA and other trade organizations to be a voice in government. We can’t change the price of fuel and materials or stop shortages, but if we pool our efforts we can do something about fair contracts, prompt pay, insurance and retentions. It will help if we all get involved either locally though AWCI, ASA or through local Chambers of Commerce and state legislatures.