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  • Community Benefits and the Generosity of Construction Companies

    September 6, 2018

    Community Benefits and the Generosity of 

    Construction Companies


    This month’s blog post is really highlighted by a guest post from Ryan Leech. More on Ryan below, but I just want to say thanks to him for his leadership on this important issue. Before we get to his guest post though, I want to talk quickly about something the SCA and our industry partners across the country are working on, and something you might want to get engaged on.

    The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) has recently embarked on a campaign to gather information about the generosity of Canada’s construction industry. This has become more important than ever as there is a public procurement movement sweeping the country. You may have heard of it. It’s called “Community Benefits”. The Community Benefits approach is all about governments leveraging public procurements to force financial and social contributions from contractors working on public sites. This can run a spectrum from requiring mandatory apprenticeship levels on the job site, to requiring a set threshold of underrepresented groups on a job site, to requiring investments in the local community and local charities. As governments seek to offload their responsibilities on to others, construction contractors can become easy targets for a public that doesn’t understand much about construction, or procurement. Community Benefits are something our industry must be vigilant about and must push back against wherever and whenever we can.

    In Saskatchewan, we’ve been successful in this battle so far. Together with industry partners, the SCA stood firm a few years ago when the Government of Saskatchewan contemplated adding elements of Community Benefits to their best value procurement approach. While we have been successful to date, we should never rest on this success. The champions of Community Benefits are always pushing their agenda.

    I will write more on Community Benefits in the future, but today I want to focus on how the generosity of construction companies basically makes Community Benefits an unnecessary burden on the procurement process. Specifically, I am asking for your support as we, and the CCA, gather information about the generosity of the Canadian construction industry. Please take a few minutes to complete the CCA’s survey, which you can find here. This survey will be open until September 20, 2018. If you use Twitter, please post information about your company’s community efforts using the hashtag #CDNConstructionGives. Or, you can email Megan Jane at meganj@scaonline.ca with the details and we will tweet out your stories.

    The construction industry in Saskatchewan is filled with companies and individuals that generously donate money and time, every day, to make their local communities stronger. This is something to be incredibly proud about. Most of you are far too humble to share your own stories, and that is admirable. Maybe, let us tell your stories for you. Not to pump your own tires, but to make sure that no one ever forgets just how generous the Saskatchewan construction industry really is.

    With that in mind, please join me in welcoming a guest columnist for the remainder of this blog: Mr. Ryan Leech. Ryan is an owner of Brxton Masonry, Chair of the Industry Advisory Council, President of the Saskatchewan Masonry Institue, and a Director on the Board of the SCA, and those are just the things I know about (and you thought you were busy!) Ryan and I have been talking about the importance of construction companies being involved in their communities for some time. I wanted him to share some of his thoughts, in his own words. That is what follows below. I want to encourage you, to share your stories with us too. Please do.

    From Ryan Leech:

    Construction companies – suppliers, designers, contractors large and small, affiliated industries like finance, insurance, legal, etc. – have been and continue to be leaders in social responsibility in our province. When someone needs some help, there is a good chance it requires something to be built. If they don’t need something built, you can bet they need some support, financial or otherwise. With our large construction labour force in Saskatchewan, you can often find the needs – supporting the sports teams of the kids of our employees – even within our own companies.

    The construction industry in Saskatchewan is always actively supporting: community groups; sporting organizations; religious groups; social support organizations; cultural events and organizations; and a number of unique special interest entities that provide the improved life experience we value here in Saskatchewan so much.

    Giving goes hand in hand with our history, through our typically local ownership, strong connection to our employee base, and the true reflection of a partnership mentality within our industry.

    As the dropping commodity values began impacting our sector, as early as 2014, combined with the growing public deficit and subsequent austerity budgets, everyone is trying to do the same or even more with considerably less – both personally and on the business side.

    Social supports were clawed back or eliminated, municipal transfers were reduced, taxes were raised across different revenue lines, and the labour exemption on PST was eliminated causing an instance 3-4% increase in the cost of getting anything built – whether we’re talking a residential fence, or a potash mine.

    The economic downturn in the construction sector has most companies managing with tighter margins, with smaller revenues and opportunities, while also reducing overhead. Our experience these days isn’t growth and prosperity, it’s trying to keep the lights on until we see a sustained positive return for our industry. While all of this is going on, one thing hasn’t changed. The phone calls and visits asking for support haven’t slowed down. If anything, they’ve increased.

    When the economy was strong, our industry stood up and did more than its fair share. Construction undertook incredible and generous support for all of the various groups and programs listed above. With the cuts to government budgets, and the increase of costs to most organizations (including non-profits), the needs of many of the organizations we supported are only growing. Unfortunately, this is happening at the same time our generous sector is shrinking – both in volume and in profit.

    How does a business owner manage the growing list of ‘asks’ with the shrinking cash flow in the bank or the shrinking bidding opportunities to secure that next project with reduced fee expectation?

    In Saskatchewan, we choose to support these needs by setting budgets for social support and continuing to engage even when the right choice fiscally is a regrettable decline. We look to each other as companies and individuals and encourage the continued investment in communities and programs we rely on to enhance and maintain our valued quality of life. It is a difficult choice but throughout the construction industry, community social support leadership encourages the ‘act of giving’ within our teams, improves our connections to our neighbours and enforces the positive rewards of giving – the greatest gift.

     


    Mark Cooper, President & CEO, SCA & Ryan Leech, Owner, Brxton Masonry Inc.

     

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