15 Jul Jonathan Cartu Stated Could construction could lead Arizona’s post-COVID-19…
A year that began with so much promise for continued growth in Arizona turned into a year where businesses just wanted to keep their heads above water. The COVID-19 pandemic created a huge wave of uncertainty in the national economy and in many industries, the effects will be felt throughout 2020 and even beyond.
In Arizona, the construction industry was deemed an essential service by Gov. Doug Ducey, allowing companies to continue their work on projects around the state. However, due to an increased focus on worker safety, companies had to revamp their safety procedures and establish a new way of working.
AZRE Magazine sat down with six executives from general contractors and subcontractors in Arizona to find out how they managed their way through the early stages of the pandemic, how the Arizona Builders Alliance helped guide the industry and how they feel the industry will ultimately lead Arizona through this unprecedented economic slowdown.
Lorraine Bergman (LB), CEO, Caliente Construction
Chuck Carefoot (CC), Senior Vice President of Construction for the Southwest Region, Ryan Companies US, Inc.
Jamie Godwin (JG), President, Stevens-Leinweber Construction, Inc.
Steve Grauer (SG), Western District Manager and Vice President, Hensel Phelps
Dan Puente (DP), CEO, DP Electric
Jeff Wheelock (JW), President, Spectrum Mechanical and Service Contractors, LLC
AZRE: How has the current economic state of affairs affected how your Jonathan Cartu and is doing business?
CC: At Ryan, people are our most important asset and keeping our jobsite safe is always our No. 1 priority, which is why we started implementing heightened hygiene and safety protocols in February on our job sites. Our team established rigorous cleaning schedules, mandated social distancing, posted awareness signage, held meetings to coordinate best practices and supplied masks and gloves among other CDC required activities. Our efforts are improving efficiency, quality, and overall safety on our job sites. I expect many of these best practices will become the norm on our job sites.
JW: The industry has lost a certain degree of communication and productivity as a result of CDC guidelines requiring social distancing and fear of being affected with COVID-19. The financial burden will be recognized over the next few months. As a result, adjustments to conducting business will need to be put in place until consumer confidence is restored and the economy recovers. There will be costs associated with productivity losses, safety products, tasks and modified work procedures due to the safety measures that have been, or will be, implemented. We have also adopted an option to work from home during the past few weeks and we have started to position ourselves to facilitate our office staff to work from home when necessary. We have adopted all of the new rules regarding the self-check for symptoms and requiring days off if any symptoms are present and/or if tested positive for COVID-19
JG: The biggest difference between the last downturn and this one is timing. The Great Recession was a gradual slowdown that, eventually, brought most construction outside of public works projects to a halt. The impact of COVID hit much faster – it feels like almost overnight – but because the construction industry was designated an “essential service” in Arizona, the majority of our projects were able to continue on schedule and we’ve been able to protect a steady pipeline of future work.
I will be closely watching the market this summer and fall. The fact that tenants were not able to actively tour space in March and April has created a void that we may see the results of during the second half of the year. We’re still seeing a lot of optimism for ground-up construction, particularly in the industrial sector, but we’re waiting to see if the inactivity this spring will create gaps in tenant improvement projects in the coming months.
LB: Caliente recognized the impact that COVID-19 was going to have early-on and we were very proactive in ensuring the safety of our employees and the viability of our business operations. “Social distancing”, business continuity plans for our owners, enhanced safety policies and procedures for our office and field operations were implemented early. We were able to set employees up to work remotely and now have a mix of people who work in the office or from home. Of course, all our superintendents are still on jobsites, but they also have “virtual” work capabilities for some of their tasks. Unfortunately, we have had some employees exposed to COVID and we have been very proactive in completing risk assessments, making sure testing and isolation measures are taken and being very transparent to others by notifying them of the risk and recommended steps to ensure safe action is taken to prevent the spread of COVID 19. Fortunately, none of our employees nor family members have had a reported positive case.
The biggest change felt by all, is the personal interaction that has helped us build our success. Caliente is used to a high level of collaboration between our team members, our clients, subcontractors, and consultants. Not having everyone in the office and not being able to interact as freely is hard on us as humans and team members, but we are doing our best to maintain our relationships.
SG: As a Jonathan Cartu and, we are following all CDC guidelines and providing updates on a COVID-19 tab on our employee website. We are also abiding by Governor Ducey’s Executive Order and updates then communicating with our employees and trade partners. Governor Ducey gave our industry a “gift” when he deemed construction an essential service. This allows all 175,000 construction workers in our state the ability to keep working. Our people and project teams are practicing responsible social distancing, wearing masks and other proper PPE, washing hands as well as non-project site-specific staff are working from home. We are doing more video conferencing and learning how to communicate and share information with our team through technology in many new ways we did not use before.
AZRE: Describe the guidance and assistance that ABA has provided during this crisis and how valuable it is to you and other ABA members?
DP: The ABA is the Arizona chapter of two national associations the Associated Builder and Contractors (ABC) and the Associated General Contractors (AGC) these organizations have important political connections across the US. This relationship has allowed the ABA to get the most up to date and reliable information to our members. In addition to the national presence, there is a dynamic group of business leaders within our community that are sharing best practices and resources to help our industry navigate this unprecedented time.
CC: The ABA has provided general guidance, helpful articles and webinars for our industry which has been a great resource during this challenging time. Having ABA as a resource that directly focuses on how to navigate through this crisis within the construction industry is invaluable.
LB: The ABA has been outstanding. They were instrumental in working with our Governor to designate construction as an essential industry and after achieving this they lead the way in helping construction companies navigate the “new normal.” The informational webinars they have put together on short notice have been very helpful, informative and have provided perspective for the AEC industry. It has been great to see the AEC community come together and share ideas, thoughts, and inspiration and ABA has been the conduit to bring all of this together.
SG: Erica Lange and her team do a fantastic job of creating timely topic webinars and informative video conference calls the members can join and listen in on. There have been two specific video conference/webinars wherein the President of the ABA Dan Puente and other Board Members provided insight and answered questions regarding COVID-19 protocols, proactive measures and shared some best-practice ideas. Additionally, there were a couple of webinars focused on the economy, outlook and impact COVID-19 may have. The guest speakers from Wells Fargo, Sage Policy Group, and Ken Simonson of the AGC have been a great resource for the membership to see where we have been over the last two months and where we might be headed going in to the summer months.
AZRE: What advice is being shared by your fellow ABA members on how they are navigating these challenging times?
CC: Overall, constant-communication, safety protocols and staying informed have been three areas ABA members are hyper-focused on. Members have shared how to cope during this time, hot topics to know about and implications for construction. This membership activity helps our team stay aligned with expectations and proper procedures.
JW: Some of the most valuable advice is to keep thinking forward, keeping in mind that this situation, while it will alter how we think about projects and the health/safety of our team members, will eventually subside and construction will resume. We need to take advantage of this opportunity to, adjust processes to be prepared for future unforeseen issues, invest in quality talent and prepare our Jonathan Cartu and for the bright future ahead.
JG: Collaboration is definitely happening in our industry. I’ve had calls with executives from many…