Building upon the success of last year’s event, on May 31, 2018 Robinson+Cole’s Construction Group led the Second Construction Industry Roundtable Discussion at its Hartford office. With a variety of representatives from major Connecticut construction industry organizations and other industry stakeholders in attendance, the participants discussed issues affecting the construction industry in 2018 and beyond.

With 2018 being an election year in Connecticut, the discussion began with a question posed to all attendees about anticipated outcomes and impact of the gubernatorial election in November. All agreed that, while the result of the election remains difficult to predict, the next governor will inevitably be required to address continued challenges with the state’s economy as a whole and the burden of state government personnel costs specifically. Several expressed concern as to the State’s perceived unfavorable climate for doing business. As an industry particularly susceptible to influence by the current economic climate, it was agreed that good news for the economy and business growth would certainly be good news for the construction sector.

Some expressed hope that the private sector would bolster the economy through certain large projects being undertaken by both United Technologies Corporation and General Dynamics Electric Boat, which are expected to have positive ripple effects across the state’s economy as other segments of the economy, including construction, are utilized to support those companies’ efforts. Attendees noted that infrastructure upgrades, especially in the Stamford and Waterbury areas, should be a central feature of any plan for economic growth, another development which could boost construction activity and spending. Attendees were optimistic that Connecticut would continue to see future economic activity, as inquiries from clients and constituents about potential projects were on the upswing, driven in large part by increasing interest in sustainability initiatives like Living Building and Net Zero.

Following up on a topic discussed at length during last year’s Construction Industry Roundtable Discussion, the group turned to discussion of continued industry-wide efforts to increase gender and racial diversity in the construction and design workforces. It was noted that, while these efforts are slowly but surely progressing, challenges remained, including outreach to underrepresented groups early in their educations and career selection processes, and in achieving minority and disadvantaged business enterprise contracting goals for both private and public projects. The group noted that recent academic research indicated that in order to be successful, such outreach needs to be done involving students as young as fourth and fifth grade in order to effectively present design and construction careers as real possibilities. Most were optimistic that over time outreach and recruiting efforts would help to increase not only diversity in the workforce, but the size, experience, and accordingly (potentially most importantly) surety bonding capacity of minority and disadvantaged business enterprises. In the meantime, some expressed concern as to how their clients and stakeholders in the industry could achieve aggressive MBE goals, especially on large or complex projects.

The afternoon concluded with a discussion of the increasing use of technology, particularly building information modelling, or “BIM,” in the construction industry. Many attendees pointed out the growing adoption of BIM has presented legal challenges resulting from participants’ reluctance to share incomplete and in-progress plans and drawings, for fear of incurring liability stemming from their work product being incomplete. Those familiar with the process were hopeful that increasing automation and artificial intelligence being incorporated into the BIM process would remedy at least some of these concerns, and the idea of shared responsibility and integrated team approach would minimize the fear, particularly in the design industry, that sharing documents electronically to help with clash detection and future maintenance and use will not lead to added exposure.

Robinson+Cole would like to thank all those who attended for joining us and sharing their valuable insights. We hope to continue and grow these discussions in the future.