John Lax, manager, advocacy and communication for the Saskatchewan Construction Association. GEOFF LEE LLS PHOTO
Increased optimism about the economy in Saskatchewan and Alberta may bode well for the construction industry in Lloydminster and area in 2018.
That was the overall theme from the 2018 Connecting Opportunities Forum that presented a variety of construction projects for local and area companies to bid on along with information on government infrastructure work.
“There’s a lot more optimism this year than in past years, which is good to see,” said John Winter, vice-president of the Lloydminster Construction Association, representing the commercial construction sector.
The LCA hosted the third annual forum at the Lloydminster Exhibition Grounds on Jan. 18 with about 100 people in attendance.
“We have all different types of industries, government, and the city, and both provincial (construction) associations are here to present today, so we’re looking forward to hearing what everyone has to say,” said Winter as the event got underway.
Winter owns Cooper Concrete and said for commercial construction companies like his that do a lot of seasonal work, the forum helps them to prepare for available work when spring comes.
“Any type of networking or any type of getting out there and finding out what’s going on in the industry in the community and the region is a benefit I think,” he said.
The City of Lloydminster unveiled some of its leading capital facility, transportation and utility projects from its 2018 budget that local companies can bid for.
“There’s some very exciting projects,” said Peter McHugh, general manager of facilities, who noted there’s a few more projects on the books in 2018 than last year.
“We have the amphitheatre, a complete overall and we have some upgrades to the electrical systems and lighting at the Servus Sports Centre and the Civic Centre,” he said.
The lengthy list also includes renovating the Legacy Centre washrooms along with design work such as upgrades to Fire Hall #1, and a rehabilitation of the Heritage Building.
Terry Burton, the city’s senior manager, engineering, spoke about everything from a street improvement program and a water and sewer replacement program to the rehab of 40 Avenue and some storm sewer projects.
“Every year you have to deal with all the major infrastructure and we have a wide variety of such projects,” said Burton.
“Each project will be publicly tendered.”
Alberta’s Capital Plan has budgeted $29. 5 billion of infrastructure projects covering 2017-21 with 11 pages of new regional projects just submitted by Vermilion-Lloydminster MLA Dr. Richard Starke.
“These are projects that range from road and bridge construction to the construction of new health care and seniors facilities to schools to improvements at Lakeland College,” said Starke as one of the guest speakers.
He warned that under the current economic and fiscal reality in Alberta, not all the projects will be constructed in 2018, but he said he will push for them.
“We will work very hard to try to get those onto the list of government projects, and hopefully make sure we have a robust construction industry here in Lloydminster and region,” he said.
Ken Gibson, executive director of the Alberta Construction Association said the construction industry needs to worry about the potential added cost of doing business from Bill 30 dealing with new WCB and OHS laws, and Bill 17 on Employment Standards Code changes.
“This is serious sh–t,” he said, repeating that phrase more than once in his presentation.
As an example, he said with Bill 17, employers in Alberta can no longer bank overtime hours and pay out at regular hours in 2018.
Overtime banking will be calculated at 1.5x for all overtime hours worked, rather than hour-for-hour.
In Saskatchewan however, companies such as Guardian Plumbing and Heating have to pay overtime after 80 hours.
Company co-owner Joey Stephan said overtime does eat into their profit margins, but explained “we do want our customers to get a quality job and if we’re adding employees and laying them off to keep everyone in regular time, that’s going to affect quality of work.
“Because we pay overtime, we can have more quality employees and we don’t have to lay them off when it gets slower—we go down to more regular hours.”
“What we would like in Saskatchewan is, that if we could be banking in the fall months, our busy months, and pay it out at regular time instead of needing to pay it out in overtime in January and February if it was a little slower, it would allow us to make the margins on jobs that aren’t bid as overtime jobs.”
The good news is the economy in Saskatchewan is on the uptick in 2018 according to the Saskatchewan Construction Association (SCA).
“Overall, we anticipate a pick up in Saskatchewan that will be marginal to moderate, but there are enough question marks that we wouldn’t want to forecast too aggressively yet either way,” said speaker John Lax, manager of advocacy and communication for SCA.
He said economic constraints include loss of young people, uncertainty in business confidence and in consumer confidence, along with some international issues that may effect Saskatchewan’s investment, which is largely based on international trade.
“The commercial sector in Lloydminster should be able to pick up with Alberta actually markedly improving,” said Lax.
“Confidence seems to be up so we would expect improved investment in commercial in Alberta and Saskatchewan.”