Archive for March, 2009
NEWS l SAN DIEGO
Construction Workers Ask County to Stem Job Losses
By Emmet Pierce, Staff Writer – Union-Tribune
March 26, 2009
About 90 construction industry workers yesterday urged the county Board of Supervisors to reduce building fees and streamline the permit process in order to prevent further job losses within the building trade.
Organized by the Building Industry Association of San Diego County, the group poured into board chambers shortly before the regular session began at 9 a.m. Many wore large red-and-white stickers that said “jumpstart jobs now.”
According to Borre Winckel, chief executive of the association, about 25,000 construction jobs have been lost in the county over the past two years. Many of the industry professionals who attended yesterday’s meeting were out of work. Among them was Steven Grimes, who said he had been laid off from his job as vice president of consulting at Roel Construction Co.
“Our industry is what we know and what we love,” he told county supervisors. “I’ve been out of work now for five months. The opportunities are few and far between. I am forced now to look outside the industry” for employment.
Like homeowners, builders have been hit hard by the credit crunch. Many large companies have scaled back or shut down local operations.
As open land zoned for construction becomes harder to find, builders increasingly are turning to attached dwellings. Yesterday the construction industry group asked the supervisors to increase housing densities to clear the way for such projects.
The group also asked for an extension of building permit approvals for a minimum of two years to enable companies to delay construction until the housing market recovers. They asked that the county expedite the entitlement process to reduce approval time by 30 percent or more. They also requested that the county not adopt new building fees.
Builders long have pushed for lower fees and shorter plan review periods, but developer Steve Doyle rejected the idea that the industry is using the current economic downturn as leverage to further its goals.
Extending permit approvals could make a major difference to local builders because they often expire before construction can take place, said Doyle, who serves as president of Brookfield Homes in San Diego and Riverside counties.
Lowering fees is important because in most cases construction costs now exceed the price that new homes can command, said Bob Cummings, who chairs the building association’s Jumpstart Our Industry Now committee.
In addition to the county, the builders group has taken its request for regulatory reform to the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista and Carlsbad.
During yesterday’s meeting, several supervisors said they sympathized with the loss of construction jobs. Supervisor Ron Roberts said the board was fully aware of the situation. Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob noted that the county is planning several large construction projects that will employ numerous workers.
But Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said developer fees were needed to maintain planning personnel and keep construction projects moving through the approval process. She said she wasn’t sure what additional steps the county could take to preserve construction jobs.
I want to use this space to thank the over 100 members who turned out today for the JOIN Campaign. We were at the County Board of Supervisors to ask this influential polical body to pay more attention to the economic conditions of the San Diego construction industries. Moreover, to remind the Board that they have a number of tools they can use to help jump start new construction.
BIA staff will follow up to set up meetings to discuss specific stimulus measures. We want you to know that the Board does not take it lightly when their hearing room is filled to capacity on an issue that is close to the public financial interest. The fact that the Union Tribune reported this morning that only 86 building permits were issued in February, virtually no change from January, fully underscored why local government must enter into a serious dialogue with our industry. the construction stand still serves absolutely no purpose! Thank you again membership. You came through for all of us.
Jumpstart our Industry Now! J.O.I.N.
Frustration is mounting within the building industry. Tens of thousands of hard-working men and women want back to work, and rightfully so. It has been a prolonged housing crisis and there has been enough talk. We need action. The regulating community is not listening and not acting. But we are!
The Building Industry Association of San Diego County (BIA) has developed a program to jumpstart our industry once again. Called J.O.I.N – Jumpstart Our Industry Now – it is a campaign designed to get industry employees back to work. The primary focus initially is local government. Local government representatives hold the keys to local development. The politicians elected to represent us make the ultimate decision on whether a project moves forward or not, how much that project will cost to build, and how long it will take to bring it to market. These are powerful influences.
The only thing more powerful is your vote that elects or denies them the job in the first place, and your involvement in the process. J.O.I.N. gives you that opportunity for immediate involvement. After all, we have a tremendous amount to protect to ensure San Diego’s vibrant future.
In San Diego, home building is an important part of our region’s economic strength. According to the Sacramento Regional Research Institute, in 2006 and 2007 the San Diego home building industry generated $5.5 billion in direct and indirect economic activity locally! This is in addition to employing approximately 100,000 people. By comparison, San Diego’s biotech and pharmaceutical companies employ 38,934, information technology employs 30,524, and the defense manufacturing industry employs 31,519. In 2006, the entire housing industry accounted for 12% of San Diego County’s Gross Regional Product.
As you can see, construction is an important part of San Diego’s economic strength. The building of new homes, as well as commercial and industrial facilities is a life line during economic slow downs.
Nationally, home building is exponentially significant when it comes to employment and the revenue from construction and home ownership. Just look at the current economic recession facing the United States. The trouble began with sub-prime housing loans that started the downward slide. Today, dramatically low home prices and property values, massive industry unemployment and lacking consumer confidence paint a desperate situation.
Logically, it follows if housing brought down the economy, it can resurrect it once again given the proper attention by government officials, the media and those institutions that finance mortgages and construction loans. Reviving the demand for housing stops falling home prices, encourages people to buy now not later, restores consumer confidence, creates jobs in every sector and energizes the economy.
People in our industry are desperate to get back to work, and they are willing to help make a difference. J.O.I.N. gives them a powerful forum to personally impress upon local decision makers the significance of our local development industry.
As part of the J.O.I.N. movement, employees (or former employees) will personally appear at city council meetings across the region, at community events and in the media. They will tell their stories, and urge positive, solutions-oriented action by the elected officials – actions that jumpstart housing once again. They will serve as watchdogs to ensure punitive policies that make housing harder or more expensive to build are avoided. And if they are ignored, they will hold these elected officials accountable for their actions. This is a movement that will not fade nor be silenced until the job is complete.
The building industry can not wait on the sidelines and expect things to turn around soon. Too many San Diegans depend on some related aspect of the building industry for their livelihood. BIA welcomes participation from the industry workforce as another level of influence. J.O.I.N. strengthens the industry’s ongoing government outreach program. It raises the level of our voice and helps the politicians understand the heart, soul and resolve of our workforce.
If you are worried about your professional future, lost your job or know someone who lost their job, then J.O.I.N. is for you. Register online to get involved. This is your chance to take control of your future.
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