When a sailor wants to go forward, he needs to find a way to position his ship so it can capture the wind, making the ship lean forward into the waves.

You see them mastering the wind from southern California shores every day and while it seems simple, learning the right way to sail is the occupation of a lifetime.

The same can be said about the business of running a construction company. Just as a sailor learns how the right trim can get the most out of the wind, so, the contractor knows when to switch sectors, when to add new skills to your workforce or when being the low-bidder might not be the smartest thing to ensure your company’s continued survival.

The construction industry in 2018 looks to be in great shape with the wind at our back. Most of our market segments look good and some look great. The state looks like it is prepared to spend the new affordable housing bonds, water bond money and SB1 funds are pouring into Sacramento.

So, what could go wrong?

As 2018 starts, California contractors are finally looking at the specter of a potential labor shortage. The disasters of fire and flood both north and south are soaking up a lot of labor. The tsunami of state funding may kick us into a place we haven’t seen for a dozen years.

We know a hangover of the Great Recession continues to weigh on total construction employment and labor capacity and that there is still some ground to make up. In California, the peak of the construction market was 2006 when 944,000 people earned their daily crust by building the state. Today the number stands at 839,900, about 100,000 short of the peak and most are in the residential construction market.

The big question is, with the addition of investment in technology and automation into the construction process, what’s the real shortage, and how, realistically, should you address it? Are you going to start the search for apprentices now or buy that autonomous equipment you just read about?

Whatever you do, you have to assume that you own a share of this challenge, rather than just passively watching the headlines and numbers go by—it’s not “a problem” but “my problem.”

This is leaning into the wind to move your company forward, for, as you will learn from sailing, if you don’t, you will be driven on the rocks of the leeward shore.

By Brandon Pensick, ECA President
Email: [email protected]