Monday, March 23, 2009

The vicious cycle

I read a story about the stalled Spire in Crain's today that just reminded me why it is so important to get lending moving -- and hopefully the plan announced today that should have been announced in November or on January 21 will do so.

It is, of course, that old domino effect. A project is on hole, people lose jobs and cut, and so on:

"If there's no buildings going up, what do you do?" said James Connolly, a Laborers' union manager. "Prepare yourself because it's going to get worse before it gets better."

Construction workers are accustomed to boom-and-bust cycles but this downturn appears deeper and longer. The impact of lost wages of $35 to $40 an hour ripples through the economy.

"People out of work, people lose their homes, people lose their hospitalization, people lose all their benefits," said Tom Villanova, president of the Chicago and Cook County Building Trades, which covers 100,000 construction workers.

"It's as bad as I've ever seen it, and I've been around for 30 years," he said.

Dublin, Ireland-based Shelbourne Development Group has so far failed to get financing for the $1-billion Chicago Spire . Now, construction unions are negotiating to invest their pension funds to kickstart the project. The Spire would provide 1 million paydays for ironworkers, carpenters and others.

Union pension funds? Sounds like the good old days of the 1970s, but that was the Teamsters and casinos and...oh, never mind. Why go there?

In the good news department -- I am seeing construction work, even my neighborhood where Metra Market is finally moving along. I want to see more.