First of all, Merry Christmas to my colleagues in the business! Here we are at the end of a horrendous year of business for most people in engineering, surveying and construction. Land development is all but gone, infrastructure shows promise but could be a mere fleeting tease of what should be. What does 2011 look like from your point of view?
The money that kept many people busy this year was “Obama money” which is essentially gone now. Construction firms based on roadway paving are already letting people go with no idea of when or if they will ever be rehired. This was on the front page of the Washington Post
It is estimated in multiple venues that about 50% of America’s engineers, surveyors, architects and construction personnel are unemployed. How absurdly tragic that in a country that is falling apart that our leaders don’t see the imminent fall of Rome that we are staring at. The longest war in America’s history is the only thing keeping millions of high paid people working right now. The Lockheed Martin’s, Northrop Grumman’s and other DOD contractors are doing quite well, hiring and giving bonuses this Christmas while our infrastructure is caving in around us. Take a look at how many jobs are open at BAE Systems! Top security clearance now trumps education, experience and maybe even who you know. The DC region has many top security job fairs because there are somewhere around 50,000 openings for those with security clearances of varying levels. We have basically become the world’s leader in military, banking and Hollywood and almost nothing else.
The average salary for those with clearance is now around $100K/year in Virginia. And I mean a young person with a 2 year IT degree and security clearance will make $150K/year. Check out the Mantech website for examples, they have 344 jobs open today; just bring your security clearance. These people are saying “what recession?”.
Entitlements, long term unemployment, tax cuts for the rich, Don’t ask don’t tell, Hollywood misfits and Prince William’s wedding are all taking place instead of serious conversation of rejuvenating our economy properly. No one wants a serious conversation because it would illustrate how bad off we are. We would rather put blinders on and just avoid the issue. Those working think there is no recession anymore. I had some colleagues in Northern Virginia tell me they see no signs of a bad economy, the restaurants are full and they are plenty busy. It is understandable that we are doing alright in this region since we are sitting at the seat of the federal government who doesn't work within a budget like the rest of us.
Today’s Washington Post has a cover story on the carpenters in America who can’t get work and none is on the horizon. You could put our industry in that picture, after all it is within the construction family. None of the state D.O.T.’s have money for infrastructure and none of our leaders in government see how this spending would improve our country, our economy and our position in the world.
Right now the people who have government work are doing OK, but 2011 is looking real scary even to them. Municipalities, counties, states and the Feds have run out of money and they haven’t redone their budgets based on a recessionary level of taxation yet. That will happen next year and they will have to live within their means, unless another massive bailout occurs. We are talking massive government layoffs in 2011.
Some positive lights way down the tunnel may comprise energy, high tech and high speed rail. A lot of energy projects have commenced such as the PATH, shale exploration and wind farms. High tech is improving during this recession as we all must get more done with less staff. High speed rail shows a lot of promise and we are currently seeing a lot of activity in this area. The Feds just put out a $2.2B grant for high speed rail. One billion went to California and 1 billion went to Florida. The remaining was scattered around to be wisely spent I am sure on yet another study.
Realize that it costs $250M to build 1 mile of rail tunnel and you will see that this $2B is a pittance. China, our local banker and lender, is building 22KM per day of new high speed rail. Eleven percent of their GDP goes toward infrastructure, India is putting about the same into theirs. America is lucky to have 2% going to this, however around 1/3 of our money goes to defense, 1/3 goes to entitlements leaving 1/3 for everything else.
We recenty saw two counties in Virginia, Loudoun and Fairfax, where the education stimulus money was given to existing teachers for raises, rather than hiring back laid off teachers which was the intended purpose. They said they haven’t had a raise in two years. Greed, entitlement, corruption, waste and mismanagement are the only words I can think of to describe where we are at now.
What do you all think, is work picking up and if so, is it enough to sustain our industry? Is it enough to fix our infrastructure and take it to the next level? If not should we all begin looking for work in China and India? No can’t do that, we don’t have the qualifications. America knows little about high speed rail and we can’t even care for our own infrastructure. But we know about Price William’s wedding don’t we?
So guys/gals where are we at as we enter 2011?
How are you feeling about next year’s work load?
Are we headed in the right direction for our industry, which is also the industry of America’s future?