Growing a Sustainable Construction Workforce in Houston

As a specialty contractor with a significant hourly workforce in the commercial construction industry, I am deeply concerned about a disturbing trend that has developed over the past thirty years and has recently escalated to a new level. Beginning with the 1980s economic decline in Houston and Texas, and continuing over the last three decades, employment practices in the commercial construction industry have deteriorated to the point that, for the most part, the employee/employer relationship is almost non- existent. Except at the more responsible companies, the once valued partnership between employer and worker has been replaced by the hiring of independent 1099 contractors, “pieceworkers” and temporary staffing companies. In response to owners demanding lower prices, general contractors and specialty contractors alike have largely become “brokers” of the construction process, using contracts and questionable employment arrangements to manage labor on construction sites. What began in an effort to compete during a difficult time in the 80s has persisted through extended periods of prosperity, only to accelerate during the current economic difficulties we now face.

Crucial Changes Called For in Construction Workforce Development

Last Wednesday was a great day for reflection about the workforce issue, at least for me. It began at a lunch gathering of Associated Builders and Contractors Past Presidents and the current executive committee to gather insight and input for the coming year’s planning session objectives, as requested by the ABC Greater Houston Chapter incoming chair Tim Ricketts. As Tim asked the past presidents for recollection of significant issues, accomplishments, and struggles during their respective terms, the issues of workforce, craft training, and unions dominated the discussion. Familiar themes of owner input and related issues, union difficulties, and economics were brought up. For example, owners were paying a significant training contribution via the union wage and fringe benefits to contractors, but didn’t see the value in paying contractors or ABC to do training in a merit shop environment.

Reveals & Specialty Trims

Once upon a time, houses and apartments had rectangular rooms with square corners and ninety degree angles. Residential drywall trim consisted mostly of conventional metal corner bead. But times have really changed, and today’s houses (and apartments) commonly have features such as arches, rounded corners, off-angles (not ninety degrees), bullnose returns at windows and doors, reveals and many more. What all of these features have in common is that they all are best accomplished using specialty drywall trim pieces.

Bisnow Breakfast Brings Specialty Contractors in Contact With Clients

I attended the Bisnow – Office of the Future breakfast on Tuesday, April 3rd, and was once again impressed with the overall quality of the event and the information. I was part of a fairly large Marek contingent, as we were partnering with Office Furniture Innovations (OFI) and Modular Architectural Interiors (MAI). We had an exhibit highlighting our Novawall and Mecho Shade systems for the design and brokerage communities. This was not my first Bisnow experience as I had attended several previously. The crowd at this event was a little different due to the “Office of the Future” theme, and consisted of a significant number of design professionals, as well as those brokers who were interested in the office of the future theme. The Marek exhibit drew considerable interest and several quality leads were generated. In addition, we held a drawing for an iPAD based on business cards dropped in our box. Marek was happy to award the winner, Will Euston with Harvey Builders, with a brand new iPAD.

AGC’s Apex Awards Celebration Recognizing Project Excellence

The Marek Companies teams up with Adams Insurance Service to serve as Underwriting sponsors for the AGC’s Apex Awards celebration recognizing project excellence. The event is held every other year in even years and Marek projects have been consistent winners in the Finishes category, and participants with clients on winning projects in the GC categories as well. Approximately 700 contractors, owners, and architects gather to celebrate the accomplishments of the AEC community for the previous 2 year period 

Rise N’ Shine 5k and Family festival

Marek supports the annual Rise N’ Shine 5k/Family festival, and had 69 participants register for the event in 2011. As a sponsor Marek offers free admission for family and friends. Event co-ordinators for Marek are Kenny O’Brien (Supt.-Finishing Department) and Yesenia Espinoza-(Corporate WFD). Rise and Shine benefits: The Rise School of Houston, a nationally recognized pre-school for children with and without Down syndrome and other disabilities. All proceeds from the run go directly to benefit the children who attend the school. 



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