If you’re in this business for longer than a cup of coffee, you know that our business cycle has its ups and downs. It is always thus. Did you know we’ve suffered 47 recessions in the United States since the founding of the Republic?

California, during the last century, was mostly immune to recessions as our state kept growing at a rapid clip, but that is no longer the case. There have been three economic declines that hit construction in the last 20 years—the “Dot.Com” collapse in 2001, the “Great Recession” from the 2008 housing meltdown, and the thing we are staring in the face right now.

Some people liken these cycles to roller coaster rides, but this one reminds me of a bit of Greek mythology that popped up during a high school English class—the story of Sisyphus. He was the king of Ephyra (modern-day Corinth) who, because of his habit of playing tricks on mortals and gods, was condemned to push a giant boulder up a hill, only to see it tumble to the bottom and have to push it back again, for eternity.

Look like your job?

It is the challenge, our task, as we all try to get back in the game.

Washington is pushing trillions into the economy to jumpstart consumer demand. Still, that money doesn’t directly help us, and may never work its way through into our projects.

What will help us is a serious commitment to improving infrastructure: water, sewer, roads, bridges and the power grid. Funding work that meets the needs of community and state is an honest way of providing benefits for our citizens, wages for our workers and the survival of our companies.

Many of us have quiet worries about the “deficit,” but that is just another word for debt. Debt funds our world—bond issues, special tax districts, or local government fees—so it is not a word we should fear.

The bear stock market is attributed mainly to coronavirus issues, but U.S. corporate debt was the insider rationale for selling shares. In November 2019, corporate debt reached nearly $10 trillion, equal to a record 47 percent of the entire U.S. economy. That debt bubble collapsed in March 2020.

Our industry is ready to shoulder our part of the rock and start pushing it back up the hill. We need Congress and the Legislature, state agencies and local government to push with us in this effort. 

By Brendan Slagle, ECA President Email: [email protected]