I’m no fan of Donald Trump. But his impending presidency could be good for construction, if he can actually do even a small part of what he’s promised. And I’m not talking about the wall—I don’t believe we’ll see any wall built between the U.S. and Mexico. It would be ridiculously expensive and keeping Mexicans out of the country is not really a big issue.
Infrastructure improvements, on the other hand, could make a big difference for the country both in the short term and longer term and can get support from both parties. Trump’s idea is to get private companies to invest in return for tax breaks that would virtually pay them back. The tax breaks would be offset by payroll taxes on all the workers hired to do the work—where do you suppose all these new workers will come from? Better build a big door in that wall.
Perhaps the more important and immediate thing Trump could do is reduce some of the regulatory burden on construction companies. A reduction in some of the more onerous environmental and labor regulations could make doing business simpler and more profitable. In an interview last week, Jerry Howard, CEO of the National Association of Home Builders, said, “The home building sector is the most heavily regulated industry in America when you take into account federal, state, and local regulations. If President-Elect Trump does move to ease some of the regulatory burden on everything from overzealous environmental regulations to some really difficult labor rules that have been put into place, that would help the industry a great deal.”
Looking at the skilled labor shortage, Howard pointed to an Indiana program championed by Indiana governor and now VP-Elect Mike Pence. Some of NAHB’s training programs were adopted and supported by the state government. “So I think we’ll have a sympathetic ear in VP Pence,” said Howard, “and also from President-Elect Trump, since he understands the construction industry and the need for skilled labor.”
None of this eases my many other concerns with a President Trump, but I'm trying to look at the bright side and there is an opportunity for construction to come out ahead over the next four years.