I recently had the pleasure of participating in a virtual roundtable co-hosted by AIA Michigan, AIA Detroit and the AIA Michigan Government Affairs Committee. The webinar, “How "Stay Home, Stay Safe" Affects the Industry,” shed some light on how architects and various AEC firms, even outside of Michigan, are currently being impacted by COVID-19.
Andy Wasiniak, FAIC, CPC, LEED AP+C, the AGC of Michigan Vice Chair and VP & General Manager, Commercial Group for Walbridge spoke on how projects over the next two months are either stalled, stopped or pushed out—several of which were in the mid-design phase. That alone is almost $500 million worth of work.
As of 2018, the construction industry in Michigan brought in $21 billion for the state. Last year was slightly higher than that (about 4 percent of the total GDP). In his address, Wasiniak mentioned that just last week, they saw the highest unemployment claims ever in Michigan for the construction industry, which will only continue as subcontractors have to lay off their trades people.
Obviously, not all construction projects have stopped, as some have been deemed as critical infrastructure projects. For these project types, individual owners must define their essential status to communicate to contractors and vendors. It seems that design teams have so far been able to keep pace on projects.
Current critical infrastructure projects include projects for healthcare and data centers. These are of the utmost priority to our current climate. One of the most encouraging practices with critical care projects that Wasiniak spoke on included 3D printing parts for ventilators. It’s clear that overall COVID-19 is changing the face of how the AEC industry works in many different ways.
Norm Hamann, AIA, LEEP AP, AIA Michigan's President, made an important note at that the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), that passed last week is only phase 3 of what’s to come in the form of some relief bills. It’s believed that there will be a phase 4 and a phase 5 as well. I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds it encouraging that the industry and our government are being extremely proactive.
In her portion, Kara Kempski, Director of Federal Relations at AIA National, mentioned a number of programs available to small businesses. The newly enacted SBA Paycheck Protection Program, which aims to keep workers employed and small businesses afloat, makes all businesses with less than 500 employees or those businesses who would otherwise comply with the size standards under Title 13 of the Code of Federal Regulations eligible for SBA loans until June 30, 2020. By extending the program to all businesses with less than 500 employees, the CARES Act dramatically increases the number of businesses who will be able to obtain SBA loans.
Requirements on various other loans and programs, such as the Economic Individual Disaster Loan, have also been loosened to assist firms at this time. Additional funding and less hurtles are set in place to make these current economic hardships easier on our industry, as well as various others.
The status of COVID-19 seems to be changing often, and we continue to react daily to those changes. Building Enclosure is determined to keep you up-to-date on all breaking news and information important to the industry and pertaining to our current crisis.
Valuable COVID-19 Resource Pages
AIA Michigan: http://www.aiami.com/COVID-19
AIA Detroit: https://aiadetroit.com/resources-2/covid-19/
The State of Michigan: https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/
Links to Important Resources shared by AIA Detroit
- A summary of the Major Impacts of the CARES Act on Firms and Employees from AIA National: http://content.aia.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/COVID-Bill-%233-Summary-for-members-FINAL-passed_0.pdf
- Here is a webinar featuring an economic expert that dives further into the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the anticipated recovery timeline.When you have an hour, we highly recommend you watch Economic Insights with Dr. Marci Rossell: https://tinyurl.com/economic-insights
- The Michigan Economic Development Corporation's Small Business Relief Program: https://www.michiganbusiness.org/about-medc/covid19/
- The Detroit Economic Growth Development Corporation's Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant Fund: http://www.degc.org/local-business-support-for-covid-19/
You can watch the entire roundtable here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3V0bvIN2k5A