Something to Build on in Flat Construction Year

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 14, 2011 | Go to article overview
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Something to Build on in Flat Construction Year


Byline: Louise Brass Contributing Writer

Members of Construction Industry Service Corp., or CISCO, recently gathered in Schaumburg to hear discussion of the state of the industry and how public and private agreements have spurred a variety of projects during what otherwise was a flat year.

Keynote speaker Jim Underwood, deputy director of construction for the Illinois Capital Development Board, gave a litany of the projects he said have kept the construction businessaviable in many areas of the state, especially at public educational facilities.

Many more multimillion dollar projects are in the design stage, Underwood said.

Some projects include "boatel" renovations -- hotels that have guests arrive by boat and are in need of dock work. Other work will include a Latino center, numerous green buildings, and various projects at Northern Illinois University, Southern Illinois University, University of Illinois, Western Illinois University and Rock Valley College.

The capital development board is the construction management agency for the state overseeing 8,441 buildings. Created in 1972 by the Illinois legislature, the board gives guidance and direction for construction projects involving change orders, bidding, rules in legal settlements, legislation and conservation codes.

"We act as an advisory body and an information resource," Underwood said.

Meanwhile, collaboration has been a saving factor in 2010, said CISCO Executive Director John Brining.

"We've been looking to move labor management out to collaborate with chambers, with community development (directors), and with our legislators to help spur economic development and help create jobs," he said. "There's nothing more important in today's environment than to support jobs."

For example, a $3.5-billion solar-farm proposal for Kendall County will be a boon to the area, Brining said. The facility would be located on four-square miles just south of Oswego, and is expected to produce 700 megawatts of green energy. The farm would create 5,000 construction jobs.

"It will be the largest solar-power-generating farm of its kind in the world," he said.

CISCO also works closely with the DuPage and Cook County building trades.

"The Navistar project in Lisle has started," Brining said. "It is creating hundreds of construction jobs. We are thankful to (Navistar) for their decision to stay here in Illinois."

CISCO is an advocate of the O'Hare Western Bypass project, which if undertaken, will create 21,000 short-term jobs, 60,000 long-term jobs and attract considerable retail jobs and housing.

"The stakes are huge," Brining said.

One of the nation's largest public/private arrangements has been solidified with Walmart, a $3.5 billion project for the region. The Walmarts are under construction now, Brining said.

However, a report from the Beacon Hill Institute said such agreements will considerably increase construction costs. Opponents say the deals, called project labor agreements, allowed by an executive order issued by President Obama, mean more job losses for nonunion contractors and their skilled employees.

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