Despite Challenges, Many Bright Spots Shine in North Dakota’s Construction Industry – Grand Forks Herald

Russ Hanson says that despite the construction industry’s challenges – from rising material costs and supply chain delays to labor shortages – there are many bright spots in the industry .

One of them is the five-year, bipartisan infrastructure bill that was signed into law earlier this year, which is going a long way to help projects in North Dakota. Another positive is that construction is still a good career choice with decent pay and benefits.

Hanson is executive vice president of Associated General Contractors of North Dakota, a chapter of the National Associated General Contractors of America in Washington, DC. The AGC Chapter helps promote industry in the Peace Garden State, as it has done since 1951. It also works with architectural and engineering firms.

“In short, we are the largest commercial construction industry association in the state,” he said. He represents the interests of the commercial contracting industry at the legislative and regulatory level, keeps them informed of the latest trends and represents the many facets of the industry: bridges, commercial construction, excavation, hospital, schools, shopping centers, roads – just about everything except Residential.

“We don’t represent home builders,” Hanson said. “Our national motto – and we take it seriously – is competence, integrity and responsibility. We want to bring as much professionalism to the industry and build with skill, integrity and responsibility.

Hanson said the current times are tough, but the construction industry is up to the challenge.

“He’s very resilient,” he said. “There are things to review and adjust, of course, but he has quality people and builds quality projects. The economy will benefit. »

Hanson answered additional questions from Prairie Business about the construction industry, giving his perspective and perspective on its current state and future evolution:

Q: In a snapshot, what does the construction industry look like in North Dakota right now?

It is the pulse. This discussion is very timely. What we seem to be witnessing here in North Dakota is very much like the national scene. There are AGC chapters in all 50 states, and collectively we as leaders have spoken about this issue – supply chain and inflation – and their impact on the industry. We are all affected equally, and not just the supply chain, which is an issue; but the biggest problem is the cost, the inflation of construction.

From September 2020 to March 2022, our National Economist AGC said inputs grew by an average of 21.5%. It’s real and when you sign contracts and you have to account for materials and supplies, and you have raises like that, it leads to some interesting discussions with the landlords you have deals with.

Q: Yes, paperbacks don’t go very far. How are companies addressing these challenges?

Invariably, prices have gone up, which is reflected in the auctions. However,

while national supply prices for inputs increased by 21%, bids only increased on average, nationally, by about 17%. Prices have gone up and anyone, any owner will certainly recognize that.

I think one of the things we’ve talked about in the industry is that owners who bid on projects and those who receive them have conversations to accommodate that certain materials take longer to arrive.

They’re looking at flexibility and lead times and in contracts and things like that, looking at all avenues to try to get projects done while taking into account that there’s pretty severe inflation in the market.

Q: Nobody knows, of course, but when do you expect the situation to improve?

I don’t know how quickly it will subside, but I think it will last for a while. The fact is that we have a real shortage of truckers and drivers, and so when there is a product, there is a limited amount of product available to move it. I don’t see exactly how long it’s going to last, but I think it’s going to be there for a while and definitely throughout this season.

Q: Is your industry currently facing labor needs?

Like every other industry, absolutely. Everyone asks, “Where have the people gone? Labor is definitely a challenge; construction is not alone. It is certainly a problem and I think it will continue to be one. We have an unemployment rate in North Dakota of about 3%, so there aren’t a lot of people available and it’s very competitive for the various industries that are looking for the available (potential workers).

Q: How does the construction industry impact North Dakota?

Construction, despite some of the images people have of construction, really is a great career choice and we need to do a better job as an industry to promote that. We have a significant impact on the economy.

There are approximately 27,000 construction workers who contribute to the economy by building and repairing infrastructure. The jobs pay well, they have benefits and a pension. These are not minimum wage jobs. These are very well paying jobs and there are almost 30,000 working here in North Dakota.

Q: What do you foresee for the industry over the next two years? What are the bright spots?

I don’t want to come across as all pessimistic. Congress passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, so there’s a five-year infrastructure bill that passed earlier this year – it’s a five-year bill that was fully finance.

There is certainty for the highway and the bridge and there is funding for broadband for the next five years through our federal programs. So it’s certainly a very good thing, a very good thing. If we can moderate inflation, that would be better, because there were increased resources in there. We were very happy with the previous program, so that’s definitely a good thing.

Our state legislature, much like our economy has done well over the past 10 years when it came together, has committed a significant amount of resources to all types of infrastructure – flood protection, highways , roads and bridges, vertical commercial. In the 2021 session, they passed a very important bail bill, which allowed the state to complete its financial obligations for the Fargo-Moorhead diversion and the Minot flood control projects, two things. very important for two of our largest populated areas.

Over the past 10 years, the Legislature has literally invested billions of dollars in building infrastructure, mostly for roads and bridges, and those funds were badly needed, especially during the oil boom of the mid-2000s. when many western roads were in very poor condition. , very poor condition. So there are definitely positive things in the industry despite the challenges.

Q: What excites you most about the industry? What helps you get up in the morning?

Personally, just everything. When you look at construction that’s been built, maintained, or repaired in North Dakota, and you’re only a small part of that process, whether it’s representing them in the legislature or the agency regulation (it’s very gratifying).

Overall, our roads are good. We will have historic flood protection in a few years in Fargo-Moorhead and Minot. When you look at the vertical buildings on campuses that contribute to education, they’re all built by the industry that I represent. It’s very easy for me to get up and go to work when I see what construction can do for the economy, not just today, but in the future.

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