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Easterday Construction Co., Inc. joining Associated Builders and Contractors of Indiana on this date in 1983. Then company President Larry Berger signed ECC up as a member because we had similar goals and principals to those exposed by ABC. The organization has gone through some changes over the years, most notably the combining of ABC Indiana with ABC Kentucky, but for the most part the underlying core principals have remained the same and have remained aligned with those of Easterday Construction Co., Inc.
Over the past 25 years I have served on the regional council steering committee and have represented the regional council on the State Board of Directors and I am currently still serving on the State Board. At times I am disheartened that organizations such as these are necessary since a large part of ABC’s mission is to combat government overreach, special interest group agenda’s and just generally keeping its membership aware of the constantly changing regulations. But it is for those same reasons that Easterday Construction Co., Inc. has remained a member and we are thankful that the organization is there for us.
As further evidence that the nation’s construction industry continues to struggle, nonresidential construction spending fell 3.3 percent in January, with outlays decreasing to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $572.1 billion, according to the March 1 report by the U.S. Census Bureau. Year over year, total nonresidential construction spending is up only 0.8 percent (unadjusted for inflation).
Both private and public nonresidential construction spending were down for the month. Private nonresidential construction spending fell 5.1 percent on a monthly basis, but is 4 percent higher compared to one year ago. Public nonresidential construction spending declined 1 percent in January and is 2.7 percent lower than January 2012.
“January’s construction spending decline was particularly alarming because the loss in momentum spread deep into privately financed categories,” said Associated Builders and Contractors Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “In previous months, decreased spending in a number of public spending-oriented sectors like sewage and waste disposal and public safety was roughly counter-balanced by increased spending in intensely private segments, such as power and manufacturing.
“That changed in January, with privately financed segments like power and manufacturing reversing course and experiencing substantial monthly declines in construction spending” said Basu. “The upshot is that nonresidential construction spending is virtually unchanged over the past year.
I had the opportunity to hear State Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Tony Bennett, speak last week at the State Board meeting of Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) in Indianapolis. It was interesting to hear the changes that he and Governor Daniels have made in the Indiana school systems over the past few years. While it had a campaign speech theme, I was pleased and impressed with a lot of the questions and answers that followed. Through my association with the Marshall County Economic Development Corporation, MCEDC, I constantly hear that educating the workforce is the number one request from the business community. Dr. Bennett said that graduation rates are up 4%, and 10% more students are participating in Advanced Placement in preparation for college from 2009 to 2011.
As it affects our industry, I was more interested in how schools can earn credit for vocational education. This has long been a frustration of mine. I’ve often felt that high schools have divided the students into two tracks, 1) College Prep and 2) High School Graduation. Track 1 kids are prepared for higher learning and are made to understand that high school is just a step along the way. Less than three months after high school graduation they will be back in school and expected to continue their career path education. Track 2 kids are given the goal of getting their high school diploma. I feel that it often hasn’t been explained to them that they will still be expected to “learn” in order to make whatever job they take into a career. Kids that we hire are often shocked and almost offended that we would suggest that they need to participate in Apprenticeship programs and continue their education in order to advance with our company.
For years now, ABC has offered a program to our schools that allows high school students participating in the Building Trades programs to earn their first year of apprenticeship. The program is Bureau of Apprenticeship Training (BAT) approved, meaning that they could continue their training through union or merit shop training after graduation. I think this accomplishes a three things: 1) It fosters the idea that construction workers need to be educated in order to make their job a career. 2) It gives the students a leg-up on the competition when they enter the job market. 3) It elevates a graduate’s pay potential. (They would still need to complete On the Job Training (OJT’s) hours to complete their first year, but the programs are set up with graduated pay increases with each year of apprenticeship successfully completed. At Easterday Construction, we generally require a year of service before we would consider sending someone to Apprenticeship Training, but if someone came out of a high school building trades program with a year of apprenticeship under their belt, I would seriously consider sending them for year two the following Fall.) I have approached the Culver and Plymouth Schools regarding this opportunity in the past and I have been rebuffed. Hopefully they will reconsider this in the future since it would now count favorably in the school’s overall assessment by the State.
All in all, I was impressed with Dr. Bennett and the programs he has put into place. I think Indiana could do worse than giving Dr. Bennett another term to further his programs and give the ones currently implemented a chance to bear fruit.