Blog

  • 20 Jun 2016 10:50 AM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    by ESGR in the News

    Central Minnesota Builders Association Tours St. Cloud Army Aviation Support Facility             Central Minnesota Builders Association Tours St. Cloud Army Aviation Support Facility    

    Mike Bellos, Military Outreach Director of Minnesota Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense program, took part in an educational employer visit from the Central Minnesota Builders Association June 2 at the Saint Cloud Minnesota Army National Guard Army Aviation Support Facility (AASF #2).  

    “Today, supportive employers are critical to maintaining the strength and readiness of the nation’s Guard and Reserve units. Providing a job to America’s citizen warriors is one way we can all serve,” said Nick Ostapenko, Minnesota ESGR state chair. “I am asking all Minnesota employers to consider the talents a Guard or Reserve member or spouse could bring to their organization.”

    At the event were 51 members of the Commercial Council of the Central Minnesota Builders Association (CMBA). A catered breakfast was provided. The members received an ESGR presentation by Bellos as well as a presentation from Maj. Shawn Spencer the Facilities Maintenance Officer describing the facility, their roles and their aircraft's capabilities as well as deployments.

    Following the presentations, Chief Warrant Officer 4 Paul Adamson and Spencer divided the group in two for tours of the 140,000 square foot shop floor. The members asked many questions during the tour and received an in-depth explanation of the capabilities of both the UH-60 and CH-47 aircraft.

    “Thank you for the awesome tour. We had a great turnout and the members totally enjoyed themselves. Thanks for helping put it all together to make it a great experience,” said Bonnie Moeller, Executive Director of CMBA.

    ESGR seeks to foster a culture in which all employers support and value the employment and military service of members of the National Guard and Reserve in the United States. ESGR facilitates and promotes a cooperative culture of employer support for National Guard and Reserve service by developing and advocating mutually beneficial initiatives, recognizing outstanding employer support, increasing awareness of applicable laws and policies, resolving potential conflicts between employers and their service members, and acting as the employers’ principal advocate within the Department of Defense. Paramount to ESGR's mission is encouraging employment of Guardsmen and Reservists who bring integrity, global perspective and proven leadership to the civilian workforce.

    For more information about ESGR outreach programs or volunteer opportunities, call 1-800-336-4590 or visit www.ESGR.mil.

  • 06 Jun 2016 1:43 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    This time of year is storm season in Minnesota. The cooler temps of spring are winding down and summer’s humidity - and storms - are upon us. Unfortunately, many summer construction projects have less to do with additions to your home and more to do with damage inflicted by mother nature.

    If you experience storm damage this summer, there are a few things to keep in mind before hiring someone to help you clean up the mess. Unlicensed or inexperienced contractors might seem like a cheap, quick fix and a great way to save you money at first, but once the next big storm hits, your project couild get a lot more expensive.

    If you are looking to hire a contractor to fix your summer storm damage, keep the following red flags in mind:

    ·        The contractor is not licensed. This is a huge sign that you have the wrong person for the job.

    ·        The contractor requires either full payment or a large down payment before he or she has begun the project.

    ·        They ask you to sign an estimate or an exclusive agreement on the first meeting - experienced contractors that are confident in their work won’t need to pressure you into making a decision too quickly. Be careful of being pressured to sign documents and read the small print!

    ·        On the flip side, untrustworthy contractors sometimes don’t want to sign anything! Before you begin a project with a contractor, get all your expectations, agreements, and details down in writing.

    ·        The contractor doesn’t have a permanent or business address. In these cases, P.O. boxes can be very fishy - even a home address says more.

    ·        If the contractor doesn’t want you to talk to the insurance company. Experienced builders have plenty of knowledge about insurance. If yours doesn’t want to talk about it, they might be untrustworthy.

    ·        They ask YOU to get the building or remodeling permit.

    ·        They don’t have referrals from past clients.

    When it comes to fixing your property or home after a storm, the smartest and safest way is to hire a licensed contractor. The Central Minnesota Builders Association can help you find one to fit your needs - our members know their stuff. Visit CMBAonline.org to see our member directory, find even more information about CMBA contractors, and more.


    Summer storms are inevitable - damage happens. Some contractors are content in collecting their check and leaving you feeling under the weather, but CMBA members help you see the light. Find yours today. 


  • 03 Jun 2016 12:46 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    by Bonnie Moeller, CMBA 

    NAHB Grand Award for Retention Percentage for its membership efforts in 2015. CMBA retained a higher percentage of members than any other association in Group 3 which have 350-699 members.

    “This award is a direct result of the great work of the CMBA Spike members” stated Bonnie Moeller, CMBA Executive Director. “ The Spikes work hard to retain members and they meet on a monthly basis to keep the retention rate high.  They are the backbone of this association and the reason why we received  this award.”     

    You can see the full lists of winners at nahb.org/annualawards.

    In recognition of this achievement, each winning association is awarded a personalized plaque, as well as acknowledgment by NAHB for their accomplishments.


  • 01 Jun 2016 11:05 AM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    posted on behalf of NAHB.org

    Regulatory Horror Story Illustrates Need to Block Funding for Waters of the U.S. Rule

    A developer's nearly three-decade regulatory nightmare of attempts to obtain a Clean Water Act permit shows why Congress must take action to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) final "Waters of the U.S." rule from being implemented.

    During a hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife, lawmakers heard how The ESG Companies based in Virginia Beach, Va. has been denied a Section 404 Clean Water Act permit to develop its property for close to 30 years, even though the company has repeatedly gone through proper channels and put forth state-approved plans that would result in no net loss of wetlands.

    Testifying on behalf of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) before the Senate panel, Valerie Wilkinson, vice president and chief financial officer of The ESG Companies, told lawmakers how land that was acquired by her firm in the 1980s for a multi-use community to address local housing demand still lays undeveloped.

    "For almost three decades, we've been held hostage by the EPA and Corps, who have continually altered the Clean Water Act 404 permit requirements," said Wilkinson. "Throughout every step of the process, the rules have changed and new requirements have been added. This is perplexing as the relevant sections of the Act have not changed since 1972."

    After obtaining required zoning approvals from the city of Chesapeake in 1989, the Corps asserted that the property contained jurisdictional wetlands and that a wetland delineation was required. The delineation took years to complete because Corps officials disagreed on the criteria for determining wetlands.

    Over the ensuing years, The ESG Companies hired specialists with extensive expertise in environmental geology and wetlands hydrology to develop a new wetland delineation for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality wetland permit. As part of this process, the firm revised its development plan to further avoid and minimize impacts so that for every acre impacted, two acres of wetlands would be restored and another acre placed in preservation, resulting in no net loss of wetlands acreage.

    Though the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality applauded the firm for exceeding typical protective measures and issued a 15-year permit, the Corps concluded that the state-approved wetland delineation, which was the basis for the approved state permit, was not accurate, even though state and federal requirements are the same.

    The firm subsequently further reduced the scope of its development plan so that it decreased wetlands impacts by more than 80 percent. However, the Corps failed to budge.

    As a result, the Corps has prevented the company from developing any of its 428 acres for 27 years, and it has been forced to spend millions of dollars fighting for this permit.

    With the EPA and Corps finalizing a rule that further expands their authority under the Clean Water Act and would put millions of additional acres of land under federal jurisdiction, NAHB Chairman Ed Brady said that this "awful regulatory horror story" could be just a prelude of more to come.

    "The waters of the U.S. rule will lead to increased litigation and delays," said Brady. "Small businesses will not survive under these rules as most do not have the time or resources to fight. Though the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has currently intervened and prevented this rule from being implemented, Congress must do its part to block funding for this rule."

  • 11 May 2016 9:29 AM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    by NAHB.org Housing Economics

    On average, regulations imposed by all levels of government account for 24.3 percent of the sales price of a new single-family home, according to a new study by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

    Regulatory costs graphBreaking down the total regulatory costs further, the study revealed that three-fifths of this--14.6 percent of the final house price--is due to a higher price for a finished lot resulting from regulations imposed during the lot's development. The other two-fifths--9.7 percent of the house price--is the result of costs incurred by the builder after purchasing the finished lot.

    "This study demonstrates the type of over-regulation our industry is facing," said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill. "Not only is it inhibiting builders' ability to produce competitively priced homes in a still recovering housing market, but this regulatory burden trickles down to the consumer level and prices many would-be buyers out of the market." 

    While NAHB's previous regulatory estimates in a 2011 study were fairly similar, the price of new homes increased substantially in the interim. When applying these percentages to Census data on new home prices, the data show an estimate that regulatory costs in an average home built for sale went from $65,224 to $84,671--a 29.8 percent increase during the roughly five-year span between NAHB's 2011 and 2016 estimates. Meanwhile, disposable income per capita in the U.S. increased 14.4 percent during that same time period, meaning that the average cost of regulation embodied in a new home is rising more than twice as fast as the average American's ability to pay for it.

    Builders and developers can expect to feel the impact of additional regulations in the near future, and the rate of increase in regulatory costs embodied in the price of a new home will likely be accelerated. A substantial number of regulations have been implemented recently, or are in the process of being implemented or actively considered by key policymakers. 

    The full study can be found at: www.nahb.org/costofregulation


  • 09 May 2016 2:10 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    Every home is beautiful in its own way. With today’s busy schedules, it becomes easy to set aside seemingly small home tasks for another day, but those days add up, and soon you may notice your home is in need of a good cleaning. Now is the perfect time to do a little Spring cleaning and get your home back in tip-top shape! Follow these few suggestions and your home will be back to its beautiful self in no time:

    clutter

    Declutter

    Do your closets seem to be bursting at the seams? Or maybe even your garage? Chances are, you could get rid of or donate a majority of the items cluttering up your storage spaces. By decluttering spaces such as closets and garages, you will have more available space and organizational opportunities.


    Clean, Clean, Clean

    When is the last time you gave your refrigerator a good clean? How about your oven? Have you looked behind the couch lately? Many people are guilty of putting off cleaning appliances and hard-to-reach areas for longer than they should. This is also the perfect time to check that all of your appliances are working properly.


    Let the Sun In

    It is finally warm again in Minnesota - open up the shades and let the sun in! Natural lighting will give your home a cheery atmosphere. Even if we experience some less-that-toasty Spring days (it’s Minnesota, after all) the added sunshine will naturally heat your home, so go ahead and turn off your heat! Don’t forget to give them a good cleaning to wash off all that winter grime!

    painting tools

    Fresh Paint Job

    Picking a new paint color for your home will really help bring it back to life. By choosing a different paint color, you will create a whole new feel in any room. Now is the best time to paint because you are able to open windows, allowing the paint to dry faster and air to circulate.


    Bring in Those May Flowers

    Fresh flowers throughout the home not only create a beautiful aroma but also bring a pop of color into your home. Can’t wait for you own blossoms to open? Visit a flower shop or grocery store to find the perfect bouquet for your home!


    These are just a few simple ideas you can do to make your house seem more inviting and more like a home. If you’re looking to tackle a bigger project this season, visit our website to find a CMBA member, research building,maintenance, and energy tips, and much more.


  • 02 May 2016 3:09 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    Statement from NAHB Chairman Ed Brady on DOL's Overtime Threshold Plan

    WASHINGTON, April 29 - Ed Brady, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill., issued the following statement regarding a report that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is proposing to lower its new overtime threshold from $50,440 to $47,000.

    "The Department of Labor is considering a plan to reduce the cap on its proposed overtime salary threshold rate hike from $50,440 to $47,000 that is a token effort at best. This drastic hike would still wreak havoc on the residential housing sector, the nation's small businesses and the economy. This minimal reduction would still amount to a 99 percent increase from the current overtime salary limit of $23,660. This proposal is clearly not serious and is unacceptable to America's small businesses.

    "The unintended consequences of this aggressive regulatory overreach would hurt job and economic growth, as well as many of the workers the plan is trying to help. There is no reasonable approach or road map on how this would be phased in without resulting in severe economic repercussions. If the $47,000 overtime threshold were to become law, it would hurt millions of small business owners, including home building firms, by forcing them to scale back on pay and benefits, as well as cutting workers' hours to avoid overtime requirements. Indeed, it would be particularly harmful to the housing community, as the vast majority of home building firms have fewer than 10 employees.

    "The Department of Labor must scrap this unworkable proposal and go back to the drawing board. We stand ready to work with DOL to craft a practical plan that would gradually ramp up the current overtime threshold so that it does not result in real hardship for small businesses. The rule should also take into account regional variations in wages and cost of living when determining its formula. Such a measured response would help small business, workers and the economy."

  • 20 Apr 2016 12:56 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    WASHINGTON - The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) urged Congress to take action to keep the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) new silica standards from taking effect.

    Testifying before the House Education and Workforce Committee's Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill., said that "our members are deeply committed to taking meaningful action to provide a safe work and construction environment, including reducing exposure to silica. However, we believe the new rule will not only fail to achieve these aims, but it will also do great harm to businesses, consumers and the economy."

    Brady, who also appeared before the House panel as a representative of the Construction Industry Safety Coalition, a group of 25 trade associations representing members from all facets of the construction industry, called the final regulation:

    • Technologically impracticable. In order to meet the new standards, the rule would require construction firms to develop and install engineering and work practice controls to mitigate or remove silica dust that are beyond current technology.
    • Economically infeasible. OSHA's Preliminary Economic Analysis failed to recognize the distinction between new construction and remodeling, or the relationship between a general contractor and its subcontractors. The agency's out-of-date economic data drastically underestimates the economic costs to the construction industry, which could run $4.9 billion per year, an amount nearly eight times larger than OSHA's estimates.
    • The cost of this most significant health and safety rule ever issued for the construction sector will be passed to the consumer in the form of higher prices. As the cost of housing increases and the access to credit remains tight, home buyers and renters will have fewer safe, decent and affordable housing options.
    • Unworkable in terms of requiring medical surveillance of construction industry workers. The rule offers no guidance to determine if employees may reasonably be expected to be exposed to silica dust. In the absence of such guidance, the employer's only option is to perform health screening at a cost of $377.77 per employee as estimated by OSHA. Virtually all of the nation's 3.2 million construction workers will cut and drill and grind during the course of their work without knowing the silica content of the material they are working on. If each construction employee required only one health screening per year at a cost of $377.77, the total tally would be roughly $1.2 billion.
    • The wrong solution to make the workplace safer. Though the intent of the rule is to protect workers from toxic dust particles, the final provisions display a fundamental misunderstanding of the real world of construction. This one-size-fits-all rule places restrictions on certain construction site work practices, which contradict existing safety procedures.

    "We strongly urge OSHA to re-examine and reassess how its final rule will negatively harm the construction industry, job growth, consumers and the economy while doing little to improve the health and safety of industry workers," said Brady. "Given that it is unlikely the agency will change course, Congress must take the lead and act swiftly to craft legislation that will keep this fundamentally flawed rule from taking effect."

    #####

    ABOUT NAHB: The National Association of Home Builders is a Washington-based trade association representing more than 140,000 members involved in home building, remodeling, multifamily construction, property management, subcontracting, design, housing finance, building product manufacturing and other aspects of residential and light commercial construction. NAHB is affiliated with 800 state and local home builders associations around the country. NAHB's builder members will construct about 80 percent of the new housing units projected for this year.


  • 20 Apr 2016 10:39 AM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    by NAHB Economics

    WASHINGTON, April 18 -- Builder confidence in the market for newly-built single-family homes remained unchanged in April at a level of 58 on the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI).

    "Builder confidence has held firm at 58 for three consecutive months, showing that the single-family housing sector continues to recover at a slow but consistent pace," said NAHB Chairman Ed Brady, a home builder and developer from Bloomington, Ill.  "As we enter the spring home buying season, we should see the market move forward."

    "Builders remain cautiously optimistic about construction growth in 2016," said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. "Solid job creation and low mortgage interest rates will sustain continued gains in the single-family housing market in the months ahead." 

    Derived from a monthly survey that NAHB has been conducting for 30 years, the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index gauges builder perceptions of current single-family home sales and sales expectations for the next six months as "good," "fair" or "poor." The survey also asks builders to rate traffic of prospective buyers as "high to very high," "average" or "low to very low." Scores for each component are then used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index where any number over 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as good than poor.

    The HMI components measuring sales expectations in the next six months rose one point to 62, and the index gauging buyer traffic also increased a single point to 44. Meanwhile, the component charting current sales conditions fell two points to 63.

    Looking at the three-month moving averages for regional HMI scores, all four regions registered slight declines. The Northeast and West each fell two points to 44 and 67, respectively. Meanwhile, the Midwest and South each posted respective one-point losses to 57 and 58. 

    Editor's Note: The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index is strictly the product of NAHB Economics, and is not seen or influenced by any outside party prior to being released to the public. HMI tables can be found at nahb.org/hmi. More information on housing statistics is also available at housingeconomics.com.



  • 19 Apr 2016 3:05 PM | Colleen Corrigan (Administrator)

    by Elliot Eisenberg, Ph.D.,

    Despite all the news to the contrary, the US econmy is in pretty good shape, better than the financial pundits think.  Sure, the stock market has taken a battering of late, exploration and production activity in the oil patch has been declining, and exports are performing poorly, but the rest of the economy is fine.  The service sector continues to grow nicely and construction activity continues to increase.  Let’s take a closer look at the facts.

    The recent tumble in equity prices has nothing to do with a slowing economy and is not the precursor of a recession.  Rather, the declines are the result of three quite independent factors.  First, as the Fed raises interest rates, the value of financial assets must decline.  Remember, the Fed initially lowered rates to boost asset prices and stimulate spending.  As this process slowly unwinds, the value of equities must decline.  Second, corporate profits have been flat for several quarters, and third, even at today’s somewhat lower equity values, P/E ratios remain high by historic standards. 

    As for exports, the US is much less dependent on them than most nations.  Exports of goods to China total less than one percent of GDP, while exports of goods to Europe are about 1.5% of GDP.  While exports of services such as movies, music and intellectual property add to these totals, they do not vary much with economic conditions.  As a result, while a 10% decline in exports certainly hurts manufacturers and their employees and reduces GDP by about 0.2%, it is far from catastrophic in an economy growing by a healthy 2.5%.

    Regarding falling oil and gas prices, the benefits to the economy are just beginning.  Until now, the price declines have resulted in large cutbacks in exploration and production (E&P) activity, as well as related manufacturing, construction and oil services activity that supports oil and gas E&P.  The key here is that cheaper energy prices have boosted household incomes by about $130 billion or $1,000/household.  While to date most of this money has been socked away, I expect that to change and to see increased consumer spending this year and next as households perceive the recent price declines as somewhat permanent.

    Most importantly, the rest of the economy is already doing well.  Unemployment is at 4.9% and will decline further as the year progresses, and at 4.9%, unemployment is already at one of the lowest levels in decades.  Moreover, home sales and prices are up, as is loan demand.  In addition, tight labor markets are finally leading to sizable increases in hourly earnings, which will boost household spending further, and inflation, which has been completely dormant for several years, appears to be rising.  This is a particularly welcome development given that Japan and Europe continue to fight deflation.  

    Lastly, services, which account for roughly 84% of GDP, and construction activity, which accounts for about 6% of GDP, both of which are almost entirely domestically focused, are in fine shape and growing nicely.  During the past 12 months, construction activity increased by 10.4% and services grew by 3%.  In short, the parts of the economy that are inwardly-centered are doing well, and the negative impacts of softer growth from abroad are not nearly strong enough to derail our economy. As for the upcoming election, let’s fervently hope that the threats to dramatically raise taxes or increase the deficit do not come to pass.                  

    Elliot Eisenberg, Ph.D. is President of GraphsandLaughs, LLC and can be reached at Elliot@graphsandlaughs.net.  His daily 70 word economics and policy blog can be seen at www.econ70.com.

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