Housing and Workforce Development
As we close out 2018 and look forward to 2019, we have survived the fires, beat back the attempt to repeal SB1, and have a whole slew of very progressive new electeds taking office in California, and in our local areas. It seems as if a “Progressive Wave” of ballots came in and created some changes that some will applaud, and some will fear as we await the new Governor Newsom agenda. From the ECA’s perspective, I will try to keep you all tuned in to many of the subcategories that will affect your businesses in the future (like safety, disaster preparedness and the opportunities presented to ECA members regarding doing emergency work, air quality, storm water regs, permitting issues for grading and building, funding for road repairs, infrastructure upgrades, etc. etc. The one thing that is not much of an issue, is the dollars that will be supplying our roadwork for the foreseeable future. We have dollars coming in from Regional Measure 3 and Senate Bill 1 and we will be on the last few years of the Measure M funding that helped widen Highway 101 to this point. There will be discussion regarding the extension and modification of Measure M soon, but that is for another Newsletter.
One thing is becoming very clear locally-we cannot separate our housing crisis from our workforce development crisis. In my humble opinion, housing and workforce development have become the topics of most importance to ECA Membership. In attending the various workshops and meetings I go to, I continue to hear stories about bigger companies not being able to retain their employees due to the high cost of housing, or the short supply of housing, or both. When we find our main companies having trouble retaining employees, much less attracting new employees to come and work in this area, we have a real crisis on our hands. We kind of knew that prior to the fires of 2017, and those fires destroying some 5,300 homes only brought the problems into sharper focus for us.
When we talk about workforce development, we all know what that means. Companies like yours have to infuse their workforce with young and talented workers that will eventually replace the baby boomers who are aging. When your firm is signatory to the various trade unions, the problem is slightly less than the problem that faces those companies that do not have a ready-made list of potential workers to come in when you hit that big project. Even those firms that are signatory need to keep hiring office and professional staff that are not going to be supplied by the labor organizations. In order to retain what you have, and attract what you need, companies have to really look hard at themselves to recognize how their firm is a standout from the other firms that are all seeking the same talent pool of young people to keep sustaining their operation. In the coming months, I think we need to be looking at some workshops that do just that-help firms evaluate their core culture and how young “prospects” view those core cultures as a possible career choice.
Along with a company’s core culture, comes the decisions by young people and young families as to the economics of living in Sonoma County, Marin County, Napa County or Solano County and working where they live. Many will opt to live in less expensive Lake or Mendo Counties and commute in to work. Quality of life issues then arise for that worker as the commute is wearing on a young father or mother. Their decision might be quite different if relatively affordable housing existed for them in Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano Counties. That is why I link the two issues together and they can hardly be separated.
To develop or even retain your workforce, those folks need a place to live. I believe it is our task at the ECA to become even more involved in both of those areas of interest, and support or lead as best we can, our members to a better solution than exists in 2018.
We will be holding our Strategic Planning Meeting to set our path for the next year on January 15 with our new President Kevin Ghilotti and our new Board of Directors. I (and they), welcome any feedback you might have as to what you think the relevant issues are that we should be focused on in 2019 moving forward. Please send me or Kevin and email or pick up the phone and let us know what is important to you. After all, this is simply one man’s opinion that housing and workforce development should be front and center for the ECA firms. This is your organization-we are only here on your behalf.
Let us know so we can have a spirited discussion on January 15. Please.
That’s All Folks