Beschloss feature

This year appears on track for a significant mix of industrial construction projects, according to Industrial Info Resources, an informational news source that tracks the progress of major construction on a daily basis. The four key regions benefitting from such accelerated activity are the Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains, Southwest and West Coast.

Also preparing to follow up with new projects in this year’s second quarter are the Mid-Atlantic and Midwest, with the Northeast expected to announce startups before mid-year. Taken in total, these embryonic development projects are expected to add up to $50 billion to America’s industrial construction segment this year.

The two leading construction sectors anticipating startup at this point comprise the power-generating industry and alternative fuels (renewables). Power-generating development, which has been lagging in the recent past, seems to be making up for lost time with almost $16 billion in projected expenditures already on the boards. Not far behind are solar, wind, geothermal and hydro-electric installations, mandated and heavily backed by government-supported tax credits.

Also expected to top the $1 billion startup project mark during the second quarter are oil and gas transmission and metals and minerals extraction. With a raft of other industry subsectors — such as food and beverage, oil and gas production, chemical processing, and pharmaceuticals and biotech ready to take the plunge — this industrial expansion is well-rounded. These together with petroleum refinery, pulp and paper and industrial manufacturing will add hundreds of millions of dollars to total revenues generated by these projects. Such forward momentum will add to badly needed construction employment, as well as unanticipated gross revenues.

These better-than-expected announce-ments, coming on the heels of growing concern with new regulations yet to be implemented by the hyperactive Environmental Protection Agency and financial regulations, are proof positive that the nation’s private sector demand, combined with corporations’ monetary abundance and available low interest rates, will gather impressive momentum as the year unfolds.

Service sector spurs exports

Although it’s well-known that the U.S. service sector represents the lion’s share of its world-leading gross domestic product, at 68% of a $15.6 trillion GDP, it may come as a surprise that “services” are at the front end of a growing American export surge.

These include financial and legal services, insurance, global express delivery servers, educational enterprises, and a broad gamut of communication and entertainments decrees, as well as intellectual information. Already numbering in the hundreds of billions as a major component of the $2 trillion-plus in U.S. exports, these impressive amounts generate substantial trade surpluses offsetting the still heavy but slowly improving manufacturing goods and energy deficits.

As this segment of U.S. international trade becomes increasingly significant, the push-back from foreign competitors asserts itself in nontariff trade barriers as well as other efforts by indigenous industries in countries most heavily beset by American competition. This tendency has spilled over into the illegal venue of intellectual theft, as well as duplicating America’s efforts in the areas of entertainment. The establishment of home-grown movie industries is making impressive advances.

The United States, however, continues to maintain a distinct advantage in its rapid technological evolution and is maintaining a tertiary level in its educational institutions that is unmatched by any combination of overseas rivals.

America’s dominance in services is further enhanced by the influx of international top-level engineering, science and mathematical candidates who are flooding this nation’s ivy-covered institutions in ever greater numbers. Even though an increasing proportion of America’s foreign university graduates are wending their way back to their native lands, primarily in Southeast Asia, the United States wisely is making it desirable for leading college graduates, especially those with advanced degrees, to gain permanent status within the American community.

With the United States having the world’s third largest population of 320 million people, expected to reach the 400 million mark by the end of this century, the need for a highly educated component is becoming ever more pronounced. Universities, especially those with technology and medical programs, stand in the forefront of student recruitment potential.

With the latest developments of breakthroughs on the major health issues affecting humankind, the United States is being viewed as best positioned to provide such educational capabilities.

Small business fears ‘Obamacare’

As the Jan, 1, 2014, zero hour for “affordable health care” approaches, its impact has generated a number of surveys relating to the anticipated consequences of Obamacare. In one survey, one in five companies with fewer than 500 employees says it is “likely” to discontinue company-provided health care within the foreseeable future. And 43% of those companies expect employees to pay a greater share of premiums already this year.

But 70% of the largest independent companies — with 500 to 5,000 workers — indicate they will drop all company insurance coverage in five years.

With the awesome total of 150 million working personnel now covered by company-provided health-care benefits, these changes will weigh heavy on employees and employers alike. They have seen the price of these benefits double in the past decade. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the average per-employee cost to large companies is now just short of $16,000.

But as the impact of individuals starting to pay for their own policies, even with a direct bequest by their employers becoming apparent, recipients will find the premium costs substantially greater since they will have none of the group purchasing power once enjoyed by the employing company.

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers with more than 50 workers will have to pay a fine of $2,000 for each contemporary employee who will be losing his coverage. This is hardly punishment, when considering the company is ridding itself of that responsibility.

What other surveys seem to reveal is that “defined contribution by the 500 and less” company size is that interest in this procedure is gathering momentum. It will likely become the overwhelming answer to the series of continued government burdens being piled on the “independents.”

This preference is gaining popularity since it gives company owners and managers a specific “cost per employee” to allocate in their budgets going forward. However, an ancillary concern is that company employees may likely forego needed checkups and subsequent treatment, resulting in absenteeism, downtime and a sicker work force.

Although these analyses may be premature, few of those currently participating in company health-care programs see any benefits that will result in a more productive or more effective workforce.