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Metro Electric Supply Celebrates Digital Earth Day Festival

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Metro participates in Earth-centered festivities, affected by current shelter at home policy 

Metro Electric Supply, a locally-owned and family operated wholesale residential, commercial and industrial electrical distributor, celebrates earthday365 with augmented programming and digital events to celebrate and educate.

“Being a part of this festival is more important now than ever, with everything going on, we are proud to celebrate environmental protection and preservation,” said Nick Frisella, energy efficiency sales and sustainability director of Metro Lighting and Metro Electric Supply and member of the board for earthday356. “This is an example of our dedication to sustainability and energy-efficient, Earth friendly technology.”

Due to the current pandemic, earthday365’s historic St. Louis Earth Day Festival, originally taking place on April 25-26, has been rescheduled to take place in Tower Grove Park on October 18, 2020, Earth Day’s half birthday. In its place, starting this week, the festival is offering digital programs from home via earthday-365.org and will run online programs through Sunday, April 26.

“The response from our local environmental community has been astounding – they have truly demonstrated resilience in the face of unexpected adversity. The result is nine days of exciting live programming that will represent the full spectrum of sustainability-focused organizations in St. Louis,” says Dr. Jess Watson, executive director of earthday365.

Events include daily Yoga Flow from YogaBuzz, gardening and heritage skill classes, a Virtual Happy Hour from Young Friends of earthday365, Eco-trivia, Green Story Time, opportunities to win prizes and raffles, and more! Local vendors and sponsors will be highlighted online within themed-experience areas such as: Arts & Crafts, Down on the Farm, Energy & Green Building, Home & Family, Nature & Wildlife, Pets, Social Sustainability, Transportation & Alternative Fuels, Wellness & Spirituality, and Youth Corner.

Earth Day is recognized worldwide as the planet’s most significant civic Earth Day Network engagement event each year. Even with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting everyone, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is going to be marked by many virtual events across the globe. earthday365 is proud to partner with the Earth Day Network in joining citizens across the globe in celebrating this important anniversary.

For more information and to join the virtual Earth Day festivities, visit https://earthday-365.org/virtual-earth-day-festival/.

 

Metro Lighting and Metro Electric Supply is a locally-owned family business. For more information on energy savings, Metro’s services and locations or to shop online visit: www.metrolightingcenters.com or   www.metroelectricsupply.com. 

NECA Hosts Safety Stand-Down For COVID-19

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Electrical Contractors Focus on Safety During Pandemic 

The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) recently announced plans to host a nationwide Safety Stand Down for COVID-19 on April 29. Electrical contractors across the country will invite employees, subcontractors, owners, architects and engineers to join the event to review company protocols and jobsite conditions, and ask questions, bringing focus to health and safety guidance offered by the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and the Occupational Safety & Health Administration.

“I’m proud to say that our contractors put safety first every day,” said NECA CEO David Long. “A safety stand-down is an inventive way of bringing the jobsite together to renew that focus, particularly in trying times like these.”

Participants of the stand down are invited to talk about their own experiences and ask questions about such things as proper use of personal protective equipment and how to effectively follow social distancing recommendations. Companies will review safety programs and policies to ensure all workers are protected.

“Electrical contractors continue to work each day on essential construction and infrastructure projects,” said Long. “Without our skilled and dedicated work force, our industry could not survive, let alone thrive.”

NECA is the voice of the $171 billion electrical construction industry that brings power, light, and communication technology to buildings and communities across the United States. NECA’s national office in Bethesda, Md., and 118 local chapters advance the industry through advocacy, education, research, and standards development. Go to www.necanet.org for more information. 

Home Builders Association Donates $12,500 to Habitat for Humanity of St. Charles County

in Associations/News

On behalf of the Home Builders Charitable Foundation (HBCF), 2020 HBA President Bill Wannstedt of Consort Homes (left) presented a $12,500 donation to Lauren Muehling (center), fund and friend raiser for Habitat for Humanity of St. Charles County, and Michelle Woods, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of St. Charles County.

Habitat for Humanity of St. Charles recently purchased a lot on Transit Street in St. Charles City that will be the future home of two new builds for two of the organization’s 2020 partner families. The $12,500 will be allocated toward the Transit Street project. Habitat for Humanity of St. Charles County strives to fulfill the mission of providing decent, safe, affordable and sustainable housing to deserving families in St. Charles County.

The HBA is a local trade association of more than 600 member firms representing the residential construction industry. The Home Builders Charitable Foundation, the HBA’s charitable arm, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing housing assistance to people or organizations with special shelter needs.

Electrical Connection Members Innovate to Serve the Community During Pandemic

in Associations/News

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to weigh on the businesses and residents, Electrical Connection members are innovating to serve community needs.  And their innovations in past work are heavily relied on in these challenging times.  The Electrical Connection is a partnership of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1 and members of the St. Louis Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA)

NECA contractor Guarantee Electrical Co. has collaborated with Cocoon Revolution by Thermasi LLC. to provide a portable high temperature sterilization system. The Cocoon industrial size vault will be utilized to sterilize Guarantee’s tools returning from projects, especially healthcare projects. In addition to heating chambers, the Thermal Mass furnaces that provide the high temperature could also be utilized to create high temperature sterilization rooms inside buildings, such as, hospitals.

Meanwhile, Guarantee and IBEW were part of the team that converted the Quality Inn on Dunn Road in North St. Louis County into a facility to serve Covid-19 patients. Electrical modifications consisted of temporary power and lighting, testing and replacing electrical devices not functioning properly, modifying in-room phone systems, and coordinating power with mechanical system modifications needed to ensure patient rooms have properly function air handling to assure negative air pressure. Guarantee and IBEW had previously powered Covid-19 testing and triage tents for Mercy and St. Luke’s hospitals.

The reliability of NECA contractor PayneCrest Electric, Inc. and its IBEW workforce is also on full display as the healthcare industry relies more and more on telemedicine. It powered the first-of-its-kind Mercy Virtual Care Center which features 75 telemedicine programs staffed by 300 medical professionals.  The four-story, technology-intense facility connects physicians with patients and other doctors 24/7 across the globe with advanced audio/visual systems.

Meanwhile, PayneCrest and its service team is adapting to business needs by carefully resequencing work to save businesses time and money on maintenance while their buildings are idled and largely vacant by the pandemic. By diligently following CDC guidelines and managing the safety of its IBEW workforce, Paynecrest is providing needed electrical services in buildings with minimal occupancy. Its strategic resequencing of work efficiently and effectively completes projects safely that might have otherwise been delayed.

Finally, NECA contractor Primary Systems and its IBEW workforce have teamed to help hospitals particularly in the area infection control.  That includes Primary Systems’ clean air passive technology.

The Electrical Connection represents more than 5,000 highly skilled and safe IBEW electricians and the more than 150 NECA electrical contractors who employ them.  For more than 75 years, the IBEW/NECA Electrical Connection partnership has trained more electricians/communication technicians than any education program in Missouri. Its award winning work provides safe and reliable electrical construction, maintenance, repair and replacement services across Missouri, the nation and the world. Learn more at www.electricalconnection.org.

Ranken Offers Scholarships to Students Involved in Canceled SkillsUSA Competition

in Associations/News

Ranken Technical College has announced that any high school student, nationwide, who qualified and registered for a state-level SkillsUSA competition will receive an automatic $2,000 scholarship if they attend Ranken in the upcoming fall semester.

Each year SkillsUSA holds local, state and national competitions to identify the most talented high school students in various vocational areas. State and national competitions were canceled this year due to the COVID-19 crisis. Ranken is granting these $2,000 scholarships for Fall 2020 to all students from across the nation who were qualified and registered for the state competitions.

The funds may be used for any of Ranken’s Automotive, Construction, Electrical, Information Technology or Manufacturing programs. Those who are interested in claiming the scholarships should contact Ranken’s Financial Aid Office at financialaid@ranken.edu.

SkillsUSA is a national membership association serving high school, college and middle school students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations, and for further education. SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. SkillsUSA helps each student excel. More than 365,000 students and advisors join SkillsUSA each year, organized within more than 19,000 local classrooms at 4,600 schools in 53 state and territorial associations. In 2018-19, 20,926 teachers served as professional members and SkillsUSA advisors. Combining alumni membership, the total number reached last year was 427,432. SkillsUSA has served more than 13.5 million members since its founding in 1965. 

Ranken Technical College is a private, non-profit, degree-granting institution of higher learning whose primary mission is to provide the comprehensive education and training necessary to prepare students for employment and advancement in a variety of technical fields. More information can be found at ranken.edu.

Forty Percent of Construction Firms Report Layoffs Amid Widespread Project Cancellations As Economic Impact Of Coronavirus Grows

in Associations/News/Uncategorized

Survey of Construction Firms by the Associated General Contractors of America Finds More Than Half of Firms Have Had Projects Halted as 74 Percent Seek New Paycheck Protection Loans to Retain Staff

With the covid-19 pandemic worsening by the week, an ever-increasing share of contractors are reporting cancellations of upcoming projects and shortages of equipment or materials, forcing nearly 40 percent of firms to lay off employees, according to an online survey released today by the Associated General Contractors of America. Association officials added that 74 percent of firms are seeking new Paycheck Protection Program loans and urged Congress to quickly add more funding for the over-subscribed program, among other recovery measures needed.

“Owners are not only halting many current construction projects but are canceling a growing number of projects that have not yet started,” said Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist. “Inevitably, that has caused a growing number of contractors to furlough or terminate jobsite workers.” Click here(link is external) for additional video comments from Mr. Simonson.

Simonson noted that that 53 percent of firms report they had been directed to cancel current projects or ones scheduled to start within 30 days in this week’s survey, which was conducted April 6-9.There was a steep increase in the share of firms reporting that an owner canceled an upcoming project – from 7 percent a week ago to 19 percent this week. In a question asked this week for the first time, 11 percent of the survey’s 830 respondents reported that an owner had canceled a project that was still in the preconstruction phase.

In addition, 39 percent of respondents in the latest survey said they had encountered project delays or disruptions due to shortages of personal protective equipment such as masks for jobsite workers, while 23 percent reported shortages of construction materials, equipment or parts. In the previous survey, which had combined those questions, only about one-third (35 percent) of respondents had reported equipment shortages.

The share of respondents who reported furloughs or terminations rose to 40 percent in the latest survey from 31 percent a week earlier. More than one out of three firms (36 percent) had furloughed or terminated jobsite workers, while 18 percent had laid off office or other workers.

In a sign that contractors are eager to maintain their payrolls if possible, three-fourths of the respondents said they had already applied or intend to apply for the new Paycheck Protection Program loans. However, only 10 percent said they had already received a loan through the program, which began on April 3. Association officials noted that 48 percent of respondents said they wanted Congress to increase funding for the federal loan program, given the widespread demand for the program.

They called on Congress to quickly inject more capital into the loan program. Association officials also urged Washington leaders to begin work on broader recovery measures that include new funding for infrastructure programs, among other measures to rebuild the economy. “The construction industry is ready to rebuild our economy, but that can’t happen without strong federal support and investments,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer.

View AGC’s coronavirus resources and survey. View comparative data here.

Legal Analysis of the Treasury Department’s Latest Guidance on the Paycheck Protection Program

in Associations/News/Uncategorized

Submitted by the AGC of Missouri

At AGC’s urgent request, one of Washington’s leading law firms, Crowell & Moring, has provided the association with the attached analysis (click HERE to read) of the Treasury Department’s latest guidance on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). That guidance provides, in short, that a construction company can qualify for a PPP loan even if the company does meet the small business size standard that applies to the company, provided that it has fewer than 500 employees.

In the process, Treasury’s new guidance appears to overrule the “interim final rule” that the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued late last week, where the SBA indicated that the program is only open to small businesses. On its face, and given its nature, the new guidance does not, however, dispel all doubt that a company above the relevant size standard — but with fewer than 500 employees – can now certify – as the PPP loan application continues to require – that at the time of applying for the loan, the company “is eligible to receive a loan under rules . . . that have been issued by the [SBA}.”

Crowell & Moring’s current view is that, yes, a construction company can now make that certification, even if the company does not meet the relevant small business size standard, if these three conditions are met:

  • the company has fewer than 500 employees; and
  • all of the information that the company provides to the lending institution in conjunction with its application form and all supporting documents are true and accurate; and
  • the company is otherwise eligible for a federal loan pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program.

The law firm adds that “successful enforcement actions” under the federal false Claims Act would be “unlikely” in the current scenario, and that loan applicants can “further bolster their position by noting on the face of [their] application[s] that they are relying on the government’s own FAQ documentation in support of their eligibility and certification.”

Crowell & Moring held a webinar recently to discuss the “Paycheck Protection Program Essentials: Current Tripwires, Guidance, and Lessons Learned in the Sprint to Apply for Loans,” and it featured Ken Dodds of Live Oak Bank, a leading SBA lender and Crowell & Moring attorney and policy advisor.

The webinar also addressed program eligibility, the current SBA Form 2483 borrower application, and loan calculations and forgiveness based on the SBA’s interim final rules and guidance that have been issued in the past week. The webinar also provided insight into the lender perspective following the opening of the application period on April 3, 2020.

Home Builders Association Donates $25,000 to St. Joseph Housing Initiative

in Associations/News

On behalf of the Home Builders Charitable Foundation (HBCF), 2020 HBA President Bill Wannstedt of Consort Homes (left) presented a $25,000 donation to Maureen McCuen, executive director of St. Joseph Housing Initiative, and Mike England, board chair for St. Joseph.

St. Joseph Housing Initiative (SJHI) will use the donation to secure a long-vacant dilapidated property on Itaska Street, completely renovate it, then sell the restored home at an affordable price to a low- or moderate-income first-time home buyer who has been pre-qualified and participated in SJHI’s home buying education program. A 5-year forgivable loan is offered to each family, as a means of supportive financial partnership, as well as an establishment of a good-faith agreement to remain in the home for at least five years. SJHI was born in July 2018, out of a desire to combat racial inequity in housing while simultaneously strengthening the shifting fabric of city neighborhoods. The goal of the organization is to complete eight houses in 2020 and 12 homes in 2021.

The HBA is a local trade association of more than 600 member firms representing the residential construction industry. The Home Builders Charitable Foundation, the HBA’s charitable arm, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing housing assistance to people or organizations with special shelter needs.

Legal Analysis of the Treasury Department’s Latest Guidance on the Paycheck Protection Program

in Associations/News

Submitted by the AGC

At AGC’s urgent request, one of Washington’s leading law firms, Crowell & Moring, has provided the association with analysis of the Treasury Department’s latest guidance on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). That guidance provides, in short, that a construction company can qualify for a PPP loan even if the company does meet the small business size standard that applies to the company, provided that it has fewer than 500 employees.

In the process, Treasury’s new guidance appears to overrule the “interim final rule” that the Small Business Administration (SBA) issued late last week, where the SBA indicated that the program is only open to small businesses. On its face, and given its nature, the new guidance does not, however, dispel all doubt that a company above the relevant size standard — but with fewer than 500 employees – can now certify – as the PPP loan application continues to require – that at the time of applying for the loan, the company “is eligible to receive a loan under rules . . . that have been issued by the [SBA}.”

Crowell & Moring’s current view is that, yes, a construction company can now make that certification, even if the company does not meet the relevant small business size standard, if these three conditions are met:

  1. the company has fewer than 500 employees; and
  2. all of the information that the company provides to the lending institution in conjunction with its application form and all supporting documents are true and accurate; and
  3. the company is otherwise eligible for a federal loan pursuant to the Paycheck Protection Program.

The law firm adds that “successful enforcement actions” under the federal false Claims Act would be “unlikely” in the current scenario, and that loan applicants can “further bolster their position by noting on the face of [their] application[s] that they are relying on the government’s own FAQ documentation in support of their eligibility and certification.”

Crowell & Moring held a webinar today to discuss the “Paycheck Protection Program Essentials: Current Tripwires, Guidance, and Lessons Learned in the Sprint to Apply for Loans,” and it featured Ken Dodds of Live Oak Bank, a leading SBA lender and Crowell & Moring attorney and policy advisor.

The webinar also addressed program eligibility, the current SBA Form 2483 borrower application, and loan calculations and forgiveness based on the SBA’s interim final rules and guidance that have been issued in the past week. The webinar also provided insight into the lender perspective following the opening of the application period on April 3, 2020.

AGC Survey Respondents Report Growing Delays, Layoffs; Employment Falls in March

in Associations/News

Submitted by the AGC

Once again last week, contractors reported more widespread impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on construction. AGC’s third weekly online survey, conducted March 30-April 2, drew 1296 respondents, of whom 55% (up from 39% in the March 23-26 survey) reported that an owner (including a public owner regarding its own projects) had directed them to delay or cancel construction on a current project or one expected to start in the next 30 days Also, 26% (up from 18%) reported that a government official or agency had ordered them to halt or cancel construction. In addition, 59% (up from 45%) reported various causes for project delays or disruptions: shortage of materials, equipment (including personal protective equipment for their workers) or parts, 35% (up from 23%); shortage of essential craftworkers (including subcontractors’ workers), 28% (up from 18%); shortage of government workers (whether to issue permits or certificates of occupancy, or to conduct inspections or lettings, or to make project awards), 16% (unchanged); potentially infected person had visited a jobsite, 18% (up from 13%). About 38% (up from 35%) of respondents said suppliers had notified them or their subcontractors that deliveries will be late or canceled. About 27% said they had furloughed or terminated jobsite workers and 16% reported doing so with office or other workers. Contractor readers (including previous respondents) are invited to take AGC’s new survey. View AGC’s coronavirus website for a wide range of resources. Here are some additional resources: Data provider ConstructConnect recorded a webinar on Wednesday with their chief economist, Alex Carrick, and AGC’s chief economist, Ken Simonson. The firm also has an interactive state map it updates daily with a nationwide count of delayed projects and links to each one. The National Association of Home Builders has a map with links to state and local orders affecting construction (not just homebuilding) and posted results of its latest weekly online survey on Friday. The law firm Dentons has a site listing extensive details for states and localities.

 

Nonfarm payroll employment in March plunged by 701,000, seasonally adjusted, from February, based on the payroll period of March 12, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on Friday. The unemployment rate jumped to 4.4% from February’s level of 3.5%. Construction employment in March totaled 7,605,000, a decrease of 29,000 for the month, but an increase of 162,000 (2.2%) year-over-year (y/y). Average hourly earnings in construction rose 2.7% y/y to $31.31, 9.4% above the average for all private-sector employees ($28.62, a 3.1% y/y increase). The unemployment rate in construction, not seasonally adjusted, jumped from 5.2% in March 2019 to 6.9%, and the number of unemployed jobseekers with construction experience rose from 490,000 to 658,000. (Not-seasonally-adjusted levels vary with normal weather and holiday patterns and thus may not accurately show economic trends for different months within a year.) The fact that 27% of respondents in AGC’s latest survey reported layoffs suggests the April BLS employment report will show an even higher unemployment rate.

 

Construction spending totaled $1.367 trillion at a seasonally adjusted annual rate in February, a decrease of 1.3% from the upwardly revised January rate but a gain of 6.0% y/y from February 2019, the Census Bureau reported on Wednesday. Private residential spending declined 0.6% for the month but increased 11% y/y. New single-family construction climbed for the eighth consecutive month, by 3.9% from January to February and 16% y/y. New multifamily construction inched up 0.1% for the month but declined 5.7% y/y. Residential improvements slumped 7.2% for the month but climbed 10% y/y. Private nonresidential spending slid 2.0% from January and 0.7% y/y. Of the four largest components, power gained 4.0% y/y (comprising electric power, up 9.2%, and oil and gas pipelines and field structures, down 11%); commercial, 6.9% (comprising retail, -3.1%, and warehouse, 11%); manufacturing, -2.8%; and office, 0.6%. Public construction slipped 1.5% for the month but increased 7.4% y/y. The three largest public segments all had y/y increases: highway and street construction, 1.3%; education construction, 2.3%; and transportation (air, transit, rail and port) construction, 12%.

 

The change in value of real-estate investment trusts (REITs) provides an indicator of possible future demand for commercial construction. REITs hold specific classes of property and their value reflects investors’ collective judgment as to the properties’ expected stream of future income. “The worst-performing REIT sectors since their combined peak on February 21 include not just malls and hotels also health care—a category that includes senior housing,” the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. All three segments declined 35%. “Demand will suffer even for real estate…such as offices, warehousing facilities and even housing. There are exceptions, though. The best-performing REIT sector since February 21 has been data centers [down 3%. This reflects] a longer-term bet: that the novel coronavirus normalizes a higher level of remote working and learning. A more socially distanced vision of he future may be good for data centers and cell towers [down 7%] but it has worrying implications for offices and hotels. Retail landlords have struggled with the gradual drift of shopping online over the past decade, setting an ominous precedent for any similar shift in working patterns.”

 

Executive pay at construction firms surveyed by PAS, Inc. rose 4.2% in 2019, following increases of 4.1% in 2017 and 2018, the firm reported on March 25. In addition, the firm “just finished up the 2020 Construction / Construction Management Staff Salary Survey. The results indicated a 3.9% increase for middle managers and professionals in 2019.”

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