President’s jobs proposal receives mixed reviews in Tar Heel state

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President Barack Obama will visit the WestStar Precision manufacturing plant in Apex today before heading to a rally at Reynolds Coliseum at N.C. State University to plug his jobs proposal, reports the News & Observer.

North Carolina is suffering from an unemployment rate of 10.1 percent, which is above the national average. Obama is coming into the Triangle, where the economic slump has been milder than elsewhere in the country.

Rocky LaRusso, 50, who owns a remodeling business, says he has three months of work lined up. He said his business was very slow in 2009 and 2010 but began picking up in summer a year ago. “I’m not buying the gloom-and-doom thing,” LaRusso said.

But other construction-related business owners say it has been a struggle. After working for an engineering firm for 15 years, Apex resident Jeff Roach started his own company, Peak Engineering & Design, in 2008. Roach said launching his company in the middle of a severe economic downturn forced him to focus relentlessly on marketing and identifying potential clients. He has since hired two employees and moved from a home office to leased space on Center Street in Apex.

“I am at that crossroads with a small company about needing staff now but being leery about adding anybody because of the uncertainty,” Roach, 40, said. “In our market it’s one of those things that you don’t know what’s going to happen three months from now let alone two years from now.”

Given that most new construction projects can take 12 months or longer, Roach’s clients want to be sure demand will be there for whatever they’re building. Right now that’s just not the case for most projects. Associated General Contractors of America “The clients that we’re dealing with that are looking at new development have no idea where the economy is going, and they’re scared to death to do anything,” he said.

The President’s job proposals have received mixed responses from the nation’s construction-related organizations. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC) issued a joint statement urging policy makers to take immediate steps to create jobs in the design and construction industry. Stephen E. Sandherr, the chief executive officer of the AGC called for congressional support of the President’s job proposal.

The American Society of Civil Engineers also backed the planned investment. “ASCE is heartened by the President’s call to invest in America’s infrastructure, and his recognition that these critical funds will improve lives while at the same time creating thousands of jobs,” said president elect Andrew Herrmann. “We believe, as the President said, that a world class infrastructure is what made America great. Reinvesting in that infrastructure can support a return to U.S. prosperity.”

The Associated Builders and Contractors oppose the President’s jobs proposal. ABC 2011 National Chairman Michael J. Uremovich, said, “Job growth will not begin until we first rollback the costly, burdensome and job-killing regulations that have buried business owners in government red tape and created a climate of uncertainty among construction contractors.” said Uremovich.

“Missing from the president’s plan was an initiative on public-private partnerships as an opportunity to responsibly invest in improving our nation’s infrastructure, including energy facilities, schools and military installations without adding to our deficit,” said Uremovich. “The Military Housing Privatization Initiative is one example of a public-private partnership where both the private sector and the federal government profited, jobs were created and federal infrastructure was improved, enhanced and expanded at no cost to the taxpayer, the federal government or the deficit.”

Also in today’s News and Observer article, Wells Fargo senior economist Mark Vitner said the country is now facing the prospect of economic growth of between 1.5 percent and 2 percent annually for the next several years, which is not fast enough to significantly bring down the unemployment rate.

“That’s kind of the hard cold reality,” he said. “There really hasn’t been much evidence of a recovery. It’s hard to find many areas that have gotten better.” Vitner said Obama’s jobs proposal, even if it does pass, includes a number of temporary tax cuts that have done little to boost demand in the past. “There’s not a lot of good choices,” Vitner said. “But we need to find a way to stimulate the economy that’s effective and still allows us to reduce the budget deficit over the intermediary term. And that’s not easy.” Read More.

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