Brian Turmail, Vice President of Public Affairs & Strategic Initiatives, Associated
QUESTION: With the change in presidential administrations, and the likely shift in focus and priorities, what are some areas of opportunities for the construction industry that you see for the near future?
A: One of the biggest areas of opportunities is the president’s repeated vows to make significant new investments in rebuilding the nation’s aging and overburdened infrastructure. Assuming President Biden is more successful at getting an infrastructure passage enacted than his predecessor, this will create significant new demand for all types of construction projects.
In addition, we are eager to work with the president and Congress to explore passing measures designed to revive the American economy, and, through it, boosting private-sector demand for construction. This includes passing liability reform needed to allow American businesses to operate without fear of baseless litigation. It also includes avoiding the temptation to impose needless new regulatory measures that will create new burdens on employers struggling to recover.
Q: What are some potential challenges for the industry that could arise with the new administration and its priorities?
A: The biggest threat for the commercial construction industry from Washington is the very real temptation to impose a host of new and needless regulatory burdens. These could include measures to slow down the regulatory-review process (by law, the reviews are equally stringent regardless of how long they take) under the guise of tougher environmental protections; imposing a new Waters of the U.S. rule that could significantly expand the number of projects requiring federal review before proceeding; imposing an Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID-19 safety precautions that include measures that require unworkable solutions that do little to protect workers; and efforts to enact or impose the PRO Act, which will unleash a new era of labor instability, deny workers their privacy, and make it harder for individuals to establish their own businesses in the industry.
Q: Given the ongoing challenges in the construction industry regarding its skilled-labor shortage, what is your message to the Biden administration as far as policies that could help the industry address this persistent issue?
A: The Biden administration must seek ways to encourage more people to pursue high-paying careers in construction, regardless of whether they prefer to pay dues to a union. This should include expanding federal funding for career and technical education, making it easier for all types of qualified apprenticeship programs to become registered, and promoting craft careers like construction to the broader public.