As I reflect on the past month and the impact the pandemic is having on all of us, I am struck by the broad spectrum of experiences our members are having across North America.
SMACNA recently held a virtual board update so we could all get the pulse of what our members are experiencing. I walked away from the call with two impressions. One, that we as an industry are faring well compared to many other sectors of our economy. Many are actively working (albeit partially), our bidding is intense, and our eyes are focused on the opening of the economy and what the job site will look like going forward.
And the second impression is just how unique the impact is to each individual contractor based on their geographic location, the services they provide, and the type of work their clients do. Layered on top of that is the difference in how the virus has hit each region and the local and state governments’ reaction to it. For example, some cities, like Philadelphia, have been hit harder with up to one-third of workers out of work, but right across the state line in New Jersey, they are super busy. Here in the Bay Area, initially all jobsites shut down, then only coronavirus-related sites opened up until the 4th of May when they opened all construction (to our relief).
As we went through the call, some common themes were expressed:
- Like many other essential industries, we are also having trouble finding PPE equipment.
- Bidding activity is busy for most of our membership, with only a few exceptions.
- A few projects scheduled to start now have been put on hold, some indefinitely. This begs us all to assess how real is our current backlog of work.
- Staffing is a challenge with many choosing to stay home, whether it be out of fear or because of financial implications.
- For some there are significant opportunities in education and healthcare sectors — the former because it is quiet, the latter for opposite reasons.
- Productivity is being significantly impacted as we adjust to new protocols: hazard abatement procedures, PPE requirements, and the limits placed on the number of workers working in close proximity to one another. If this is the new reality, it will have a noticeable impact on pricing of future work.
Like all of you, my partners and I have been grateful for the constant support and guidance from SMACNA through this crisis. SMACNA’s staff has provided a steady stream of information and educational opportunities that directly helps all of us manage a business through this unprecedented crisis in our nation’s history. From establishing new communications channels to scheduling webcasts, conference calls, and webinars, SMACNA is keeping us all plugged in and current.
I am sure during the coming months the fog will lift and we will have a much clearer view of the road ahead. I look forward to the opportunity to once again interact directly with SMACNA members and chapters as we share our best ideas for keeping our workforce safe and our businesses thriving in what will undoubtedly be a new reality.