Advocating for the Construction Industry

Earl R. Hall, Executive Director

Return on investment (ROI).  How many times have you asked yourself what is the ROI on various items?  Kitchen renovation, professional Association membership, club membership, bathroom renovation, etc.  Many people want to know, which may not always be easy to quantify, but typically you can determine an estimated ROI.

Association Executives had better keep ROI at the top of their priority list when evaluating the goods and services delivered to a membership of individuals or employers.  While many of the services the Syracuse Builders Exchange (“SBE”) delivers to the construction industry, our member employers and their employees are well known, one not so well-known service is our advocacy efforts.  How does one quantify the value of “advocacy” into the ROI determination?  It is a good question which I will address.

Advocating on behalf of the construction industry and our member employers remains a vital service SBE provides.  Although SBE does not have a lobbyist, as Executive Director I do participate with my construction industry Association peers across New York in identifying items of importance to the industry throughout New York State.  The group consists of construction industry Association executives from western New York, Rochester, central/northern New York, the Mohawk Valley, Albany, Hudson Valley, New York City and Long Island.

Collaboration among a small group of Association Executives has proven beneficial as our strength in numbers approach has illustrated a unified message to elected officials and bureaucrats in Albany.  I would be remis to say as a group we have any political power to overcome opponents which generally donate thousands of dollars to the same elected officials; however, we do have the intellect to deliver a thoughtful message that is not only in the best interest of the construction industry, but in most cases, taxpayers.

Examples of successful advocacy efforts in 2020 include implementation of new Substantial Completion legislation signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.  Substantial Completion is now defined by law and will prevent project owners from withholding retainage for extended periods of time after a project has been fully occupied or utilized for its intended purposes. 

SBE successfully advocated for changing onerous provisions in State University Construction Fund (SUCF) project specifications relating to COVID-19 contractor liability on job sites.  The language essentially stated contractors would be responsible for any Executive Orders or orders by public health officials which were not present at the time of bidding but may be imposed during the project.  Those unknown costs would be the burden of the contractor.  SBE opposed such language and I engaged in discussions with SUCF legal counsel.  As a result, SUCF amended the language to mitigate the contractor’s liability on all SUCF projects, including the SUNY Oswego project in question.

Not all advocacy efforts result in favorable outcomes.   I remain frustrated that those of us advocating for Labor Law 240 reform (Scaffold Law) have failed.  The trial lawyers lobby and the lobbying efforts of organized labor continue to be too powerful to overcome.  In addition, some legislators in Albany are also attorneys who remain very reluctant to remove this absolute liability statute.  New York remains the only state that maintains an absolute liability statute.  Reform advocates simply request New York remove the absolute liability standard and replace such with a “comparative negligence standard”.  As long as our elected officials who continue to maintain control in the New York State Assembly and Senate, Labor Law reform is highly unlikely. 

Although New York State Labor Law reform is highly unlikely, I am working with Congressman Chris Jacobs (NY-27) in supporting his effort to remove the absolute liability standard on all federally funded projects in New York and replace such with the comparative negligence standard.  As you can imagine, unfortunately, he is not getting the support from his colleagues on the other side of the aisle.

Quantifying the ROI of advocacy efforts is difficult, especially in instances as illustrated above.  I suspect the ROI is valued differently and varies from member to member; however, it remains important the construction industry and our member employers understand that such efforts will continue as representing the best interest of contractors and the industry is outlined in the SBE By-Laws.

Advocacy efforts will remain one of the top priorities at SBE.  Dues dollars are not taken for granted but are appreciated especially during the tail-end of a pandemic, and challenging economic times.  While the pandemic may be retreating and our return to “normal” just around the corner, the economic damage done by the pandemic and our elected officials in Albany will be felt for quite some time. 

I welcome and encourage contractors, engineers, architects, and project owners to contact me with items of importance.  All items will be reviewed and discussed to determine if such impacts the industry throughout New York, or just at the local level. 



Tim DeLany joins Five Star Equipment as its Used Equipment Manager