Andy Pereira, president of the Construction Association of Bermuda, remains cautious at the prospect for recovery within the construction industry. *Photo supplied
Andy Pereira, president of the Construction Association of Bermuda, remains cautious at the prospect for recovery within the construction industry. *Photo supplied
When some architectural firms started struggling to find work and were forced into four-day workweeks, it was only a matter of time before it would affect construction companies and their employees.

For the past two years the construction industry has seen a continued decline in new construction and renovation projects.

In the last few months it has been really brought to everyone’s attention by reports of unemployment.

Government has now taken notice of this upturn in unemployment, not only in the construction sector but others as well.

Our industry relies on people wanting to invest in property, houses and businesses.

Without investment there is no new construction.

For real growth on our isolated island we need overseas investment.

In the first quarter of 2011 there have been four major projects started on the island:  the new KEMH public-private-partnership project, the National Aquatics Centre swimming pool and facility buildings, Waterloo project and the WEDCo housing project. Government is directly or indirectly financing three of these projects. One is privately run and financed.

These projects won’t get everyone back to work; however, it will give some an opportunity at employment and keep a few companies from further downsizing and/or closing.

There seems to be a small increase in work available for pricing, which is a good sign. We are cautious in looking at this as an indicator of recovery, rather than consumers taking advantage of competitive pricing in the market place.

With the downturn in property sales, the effect of much discussed immigration policies and further controls on foreign ownership of property, talk of international business relocating key staff to other jurisdictions and declining tourism income year after year, it will be hard to counter the downward trend of unemployment and shrinking GDP over the next year.

There are hundreds of thousands of square feet of empty office space in Hamilton due to the exodus of businesses and their employees.

This in turn has created empty houses, condos and apartments.

The Construction Association of Bermuda (CAOB) has been working in conjunction with the following organizations:  Bermuda Employers Council, Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, Association of Bermuda International Companies, Bermuda Trade Union Congress, Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers, Hotel Employers of Bermuda and the Bermuda Industrial Union, to open channels of communication between industry leaders and government.

Our goal is to achieve growth in employment, be more competitive locally and overseas, promote retraining and help provide accurate employment statistics.

A major shift in the way Government and the average Bermudian thinks about treating international business, as well as local business and foreign and local workers, will be vital to the island’s future success.

We are all in this downturn together and, if we are all pulling in the same direction, there should be no reason why the island cannot come out of these hard economic times sooner rather than later.