One year into President Trump’s term, what changes have most influenced the construction industry?

Kristen Swearingen

Vice President & Political Affairs
Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)

The construction industry expects to have more certainty and flexibility in their business operations, thanks to President Trump’s efforts on regulatory reform during his first year in office. In March, President Trump blocked implementation of an Obama administration executive order, Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces, commonly referred to as “blacklisting.” The regulation would have threatened federal contractors’ due process rights, injected unwarranted subjectivity into the federal acquisition process and added needless and duplicative layers of bureaucracy. A few weeks later, President Trump rescinded OSHA’s Volks rule, also known as “Clarification of an Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain Accurate Records of Each Recordable Injury and Illness,” which would have imposed a massive paperwork burden on contractors without improving jobsite safety.

The Trump administration has also delayed regulations related to persuaders and white-collar overtime pay from going into effect. Many business owners in the construction industry are also excited about the impact of an executive order President Trump signed in August, which streamlines the permitting process of infrastructure projects, making the environmental review process more efficient and avoiding unnecessary delays and budget overruns.

Craig A. Ramseyer

Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP

The short answer is that, while we have heard a lot of talk about changes that could spur new construction, not much has advanced beyond talk. A growing economy and a stronger financial market has increased access to capital, but a low unemployment rate presents challenges when recruiting construction workers. With both of these trends having begun before President Trump took office, it is difficult to attribute the full impact to his presidency. Should Congress pass infrastructure legislation that President Trump supports, hundreds of billions of federal dollars could be spent on massive construction projects.

Federal agencies are also promising rollbacks of environmental and financial regulations designed to spur more private-sector construction, but those changes cannot happen overnight. One concrete result of the Trump presidency is the construction of eight border wall prototypes in San Diego, California, with each one reportedly costing as much as $500,000 in federal funds. What is unclear is whether Congress—or Mexico, as the President likes to say—will fund construction of an actual wall. I’m not holding my breath.