Project owners are concerned about the current and future availability of skilled workers amid an ongoing debate over the nation's immigration laws, which affect jobsites. These were just two of the top-of-mind issues noted by the owners who attended the Associated Builders & Contractors' annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last month.

Carl Crowe, vice president of construction for Walmart Stores Inc., Bentonville, Ark., cited a shortage of refrigeration subcontractors and told non-union building executives at the event that the retailer has even started recruiting high-school students into the building trades. "All of us have to help young people see those opportunities," he said.


Intertwined with ABC members' workforce concerns is the current debate in Washington, D.C., over the nation's immigration laws. In a statement released after this year's State of the Union address, the group applauded President Obama's call for immigration reform but criticized him for not mentioning a temporary guest-worker program for non-agricultural workers. "Immigration reform will fail without a legal channel allowing willing, essential foreign workers to work legally in this country," said Geoff Burr, ABC vice president of government affairs, in the group's State of the Union response.

"It's a huge problem," Hoberock added. "We need comprehensive immigration reform."

"Workforce is a huge [issue]," added Greg Hoberock, current ABC chairman and CEO of HTH Cos. Inc., a Union, Mo., general contractor. While acknowledging that some workers have left the industry, Hoberock thinks a coming "explosion" of construction work could lure back some of those workers. "As the boom hits, you're going to see a better economic outlook for the worker," he said. "A percentage of them we'll be able to attract back, and there will be a percentage of them we can't."