President's Column: Smart Planning for the Future

I recently finished a year as SMACNA President and took some time to reflect on the past 12 months and evaluate some options for the future.

Angie Simon 555x600
Angie Simon

I recently finished a year as SMACNA President and took some time to reflect on the past 12 months and evaluate some options for the future. The SMACNA year started with the wonderful convention in Austin, and I had the opportunity to visit several amazing chapter events. It was truly rewarding to share ideas with so many talented people, and I was looking forward to a full year of chapter visits where I could interact with many more.

Then the harsh realities of the pandemic hit us all, hard. We were forced to make tough decisions regarding our personal lives and businesses. Many of us had no alternative but to furlough or lay off valuable employees. Our plans and budgets were no longer applicable to the current changing regulations we had to comply with.

We had to rapidly formulate new plans, including several contingency strategies. There were more tough decisions to be made. Often the information available was not complete for the situation. SMACNA helped with keeping us current on legislative and regulatory issues, and assisting us with the latest industry news. We had to exhibit leadership and make hard choices.

Looking ahead, we still have concerns. We hope a vaccine will be developed to help people, but when? Many jobsites that were closed have restarted, and we have even seen an increase in manhours in some areas. But, we also have had sudden shut-downs locally due to COVID-19 outbreaks. In the pages of this SMACNews and around the country, we see gigantic projects and small ones, new ones starting, and existing ones being completed. It appears our industry is getting busy with work. We hope 2021 will restore a vibrant economy, but we also need to prepare for the possibility that 2022 could be a challenge.

We have seen significant shifts in consumer preferences and work habits that add complexity to our planning. From 14-year high vacancy rates in New York City to dropping home prices in San Francisco, consumers’ preferences are changing both in where they live and how they behave online.

My company is working on three versions of our fiscal year 2021 budget and discussing options and contingencies depending on what surprises we will have to face over the next few months. These budgets include plans to make hard decisions, if necessary. Being prepared in advance for some “what-ifs” helps us remain calm and care for others in difficult times.

Anticipating how shifting consumer demands will impact the built economy is something we all should pay attention to as it can lead to new opportunities as well as prevent miscues. Topics I keep an eye on are vaccine production and delivery, return-to-work, technology infrastructure, indoor air quality, sustainability, building efficiency and renewable energy.

SMACNA recently demonstrated its ability to help keep contractors informed on a wide range of trends and skills with the Edge Conference. We all could benefit from hearing leaders in our industry speak to us on economic trends and skills development. SMACNA even enabled us to connect with one another in roundtable sessions to get a pulse check with our peers on several different topics. Executive News Brief also remains a “go-to” source for daily news and trends.

SMACNA continues to offer a variety of educational opportunities online through webinars and insightful articles and information in their newsletters and magazines. Engage with SMACNA to keep current, and to anticipate important trends as we ride into the future together.

Please stay positive, safe and healthy.

Angie Simon, SMACNA President