the Economic-Recovery Package Save the Construction Industry?
The Senate and the House of Representatives reached a compromise
yesterday on the $789.5 billion economic-recovery package designed
to give tax relief for individuals and businesses and also rebound
the nation's construction industry, from schools and other public
buildings to the nation's infrastructure systems. The House could
take the bill up as early as today and the Senate possibly by tomorrow.
Some highlights of the bill include:
- Thirty-five percent of the bill would be for tax cuts; 65 percent
would be for spending;
- $6 billion to $9 billion for modernizing and repairing schools;
- A provision requiring materials purchased with funds from the
bill to be U.S. made.
In recent weeks several construction industry groups and associatons
with ties to the glazing industry, including the Finishing Contractors
Association (FCA), have been outspoken about the proposed bill in
hopes that the nation's building construction segment would not
be overlooked in the plan.
"Our association represents [many finishing contractor groups
including] union glaziers. Our members, and certainly our glaziers,
understand the power of building projects to stimulate the economy,
create jobs and sustain and build communities," Stuart Binstock,
FCA chief executive officer, told USGNN.com. "Our members would
like to see the stimulus package cover 'infrastructure' in its broadest
sense. This means the building of schools, government buildings,
public projects-all of which benefit the community and the economy."
Eugene Negrin, president of Galaxy Glass and Stone, a contract
glazier located in Fairfield, N.J., is hopeful that the stimulus
package will help get the economy-and construction-moving again.
"Given the dizzying amount of money that will be pumped into
the economy, I cannot see how it will not effect positive movement
and provide work for the construction sector," Negrin says.
"Initially, I foresee enormous spending on infrastructure such
as schools, roads, bridges and tunnels, but if the stimulus program
is successful in moving banks to lend to creditworthy businesses
we will then see movement in the commercial office/institutional
In the meantime, Negrin says his company is staying busy working
on a backlog of projects and other jobs that have already been funded
and not cancelled, but adds that yes, they are seeing and feeling
a softness in the marketplace.
"Some of the projects that are still moving forward have been
scaled back significantly in their scopes," he says. "We
are anticipating a slowdown in the luxury sector, which for us runs
the spectrum of commercial, hospitality, retail, residential and
institutional by the end of the first quarter/beginning of the second
quarter due to the significant layoffs in the architectural and
design community. If they are not drawing projects we will surely
feel the effect of this dearth of projects not happening within
the next three to six months."
Not everyone, though, is as encouraged by the bill. Russ Ebeid,
president of Guardian Industries' Glass Group, says he doesn't see
anything substantial in the bill that will help the construction
industry in the short term-this year or next.
"There are incentives [tax credits] for homebuyers, but I
think that's mainly to clean up the existing stock of houses and
until that's cleaned up I think new construction will still be down,"
says Ebeid. "On the commercial building side, people are not
shopping so there is no need to build more shopping centers and
strip malls and with businesses being down why build new office
buildings? So I just don't see any immediate help for the construction
industry. The bill may just help us reach our bottom faster."
He does point out, however, that there are some aspects of the
bill that could be positives for the industry in the shorter term.
One element of the bill, for instance, encourages renewable office
buildings, which could mean the use of more energy-efficient materials,
including glass. "I also understand the bill includes alternative
energy and that, too could be positive for the glass industry,"
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