There’s been a lot of talk – and it’s been a long time coming – but at long last infrastructure seems to be the name of the game for 2022, both here in Michigan and throughout the U.S. With President Biden’s on again/off again “Build Back Better” program and Governor Whitmer’s continuing but unfilled pledge to “fix the damn roads,” infrastructure is now squarely in everybody’s sights.
“One way or another, the President is going to get a major infrastructure program passed and with the Gov. Whitmer’s creation of a Michigan Infrastructure Office, long overdue attention on roads, bridges, ports and water systems is really going to happen in Michigan and throughout the country,” said Mark Smolinski P.E., principal at G2 Consulting Group in Troy. “All this suggests that 2022 should be a record year for the construction industry. Collectively, the industry’s biggest challenge may be finding the people needed to do the work.”
Smolinski joined other construction executives in predicting as much as a 30 percent increase in construction work in 2022. “The focus will be on improving our communities, both what’s seen and unseen – streets, parks, transportation as well as underground water and sewage systems. Ultimately, all this work creates a better quality of life and brings the country back to the standards it needs to achieve to be competitive and successful.”
Jon Kramer P.E., president of OHM Advisors, concurs with the optimistic outlook. “We expect to see improvements in virtually every area,” Kramer says, “from new construction to long overdue deferred maintenance. A lot of work will be started this year but will take years to complete. With the new technologies and construction materials available these projects should all be stronger, better and longer lasting than anything that’s come before. It won’t happen overnight but we expect to see a strong start in 2022 and continuing for the next several years as projects are prioritized and resources deployed.”
Scott LaSalle, senior project engineer at Q Cells, sees sunny days ahead for the solar industry. “Solar continues to win customers in the alternative energy space. Efficiency has plateaued over the past few years, but costs have been reduced – although COVID’s supply chain disruption presented a blimp. Solar’s easy integration, cost / efficiency and environmentally friendliness continues to help it lure customers from traditional and other renewable sources. In the coming years, we might also see more suppliers re-shore to North America to improve the supply chain cadence.”
Smolinski, Kramer and LaSalle mentioned the impact of COVID on the industry. New employees at all levels have been hard to find and many experienced and knowledgeable “baby-boomers” are retiring. Raw material costs have been particularly high and difficult to secure causing some projects to be delayed or canceled altogether. Still, the industry insiders expressed cautious optimism that the worst of COVID is behind us and that with the new federal and state money, and the renewed spotlight on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, an increased level of work will get underway aggressively.
“We see 2022 as the start of a long-term program to rebuild, repair and replace the nation’s older infrastructure and create new and vastly superior systems in their place. That’s what “Build Back Better” is all about. The construction industry is poised and ready to meet the challenge. It’s time, and it’s needed. The country simply can’t afford to delay any longer.”