Will the Economic-Recovery Package Save the Construction Industry?

While President Obama’s economic-recovery package offers tax relief for individuals and businesses, it also includes incentives to try and rebound the nation’s construction industry. 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; and
· A provision requiring materials purchased with funds from the bill to be U.S. made.
“America’s architects stand ready to work with President Obama and Congress to help rebuild and renew America,” says Marvin Malecha, FAIA, president of the American Institute of Architects. “Achieving the priorities that the President outlined in his address last night will require the support and participation of architects–whether to design the next generation of green buildings that help break our addiction to foreign oil, build the hospitals and health facilities that revolutionize how medicine is delivered or modernize schools to help our children compete in the global economy.”

Malecha continues, “Also, we hope that the President and Congress look at the historic investments made in the economic recovery bill for green buildings and infrastructure as just a down payment, and not the last word. When we face a $2.2 trillion shortfall in infrastructure investments, and when as many as 1 in 5 American children call a portable trailer their classroom, we cannot afford to let the forward momentum slow.”

But talk to a few people from companies that supply architectural glass products and it’s easy too see that not everyone 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,” Ebeid adds.