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Labor Shortfall Threatens Construction Boom

Posted: September 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Employer & Student Visas, Sarasota Immigrants | Tags: , , | No Comments »

This article, reposted from the Sarasota Observer, is about the skilled labor shortfall in construction and compliments our earlier repost on this subject.  We hope that immigrants and potential immigrants to the Sarasota area find this information useful.

Labor shortfall threatens construction boom

Area contractors, such as Sutter Roofing Company, contracted for the Sarasota County Courthouse roof-replacement project, report that a labor shortage in the construction industry could raise building prices and slow the pace of area growth.

When the economy derailed in 2008, Doug Sutter, vice president of Sutter Roofing Co., made a tough choice. He decided to keep as many of his workers employed as possible through the lean years of the Great Recession, sacrificing his bottom line to keep a firm grip on what he predicted would one day be a limited commodity — skilled labor.

“We really did a good job of trying to keep our core guys through the downturn,” Sutter said. “We tried to find ways to keep guys busy because we knew finding skilled labor would be a problem coming out of the recession.  We saw this coming.”

After five years of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, a shortage of skilled labor threatens to take the wind out of the sails of Sarasota’s resurrected construction industry. The problem is that a lack of workers threatens to drive up construction costs and limit the amount of projects contractors are able to tackle.

“I hope we can keep the boom going, but we have to get more people into the industry,” Sutter said. “The labor shortage is a big, big concern, particularly in skilled labor.”

The construction industry in Sarasota County is considered a bellwether for the area’s economy and a driver of economic growth. According to a county report, property tax revenue is projected to increase by about $6 million next year, due to a 4.2% increase in property values countywide. And many area businesses and lawmakers point to a new round of development projects popping up around the county as an indication that Sarasota’s economy is on the mend. But the skilled-labor shortfall could limit the economic benefits of resurgent development and add uncertainty to government budgets.

Mary Slapp, executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, acknowledged that an increase in building costs may affect the scale of new projects, but said the real casualty of the labor shortfall will be the pace of growth.

“I hear from the general contractors that they’re not going to bid because they don’t have the labor,” Slapp said.

Brian Jones, director of development for Core Construction, said he noticed smaller sub-contractors turning down jobs, but it wasn’t until CECO Concrete Construction, the nation’s largest concrete subcontractor, stopped taking new jobs in Florida for 2014 that the scale of the problem became apparent.

“That caught us off guard,” Jones said. “We didn’t expect a contractor as big as that to start canceling jobs.”

The problem is one of supply and demand. In 2006, prior to the downturn, the Sarasota County area construction industry employed more than 32,000 workers, according to Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (FDEO) data. But the recession hit Sarasota’s construction industry hard. By 2010, the construction workforce slimmed down by more than half, dipping below 15,000 workers. And, despite the recent development rebound, the industry workforce has been stuck at around 15,000 for the past two years and shows little to no signs of growth. The FDEO reports that Sarasota’s construction workforce was 15,600 in July 2013 — a 3.2% drop from July 2012.

“These things have a way of working themselves out,” Jones said, referring to the labor shortage. “But it means prices will have to go up.”

Slapp said that much of Sarasota County’s construction workforce uprooted to other areas of the country such as Texas and the Carolinas, where construction was less affected by the economic downturn.

“When you have to feed your family, you go where the jobs are,” Slapp said. “Now we have to find a way to lure them back.”

Sutter added that new government regulations such as E-Verify and the Affordable Health Care Act’s employer mandate are burdens for businesses seeking to hire new workers.

“It certainly thins the herd,” Sutter said, referring to E-Verify, an Internet-based program used to determine an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. “But, there really isn’t much of a herd, anyway.”

The labor shortage could also throw area governments a budgetary curveball.

Scott Lempe, chief operating officer for the Sarasota County School Board, said cost increases could send some projects to the chopping block.

“I anticipate the costs to tick up,” Lempe said. “If the cost of material or labor goes up dramatically, then it would force us to reevaluate the number and magnitude of projects we can take on.”

Sarasota County Commissioner Christine Robinson said the county budget has yet to feel the labor shortage’s effects.

“In the short term, I don’t see it as huge problem,” Robinson said. “But we may have to take another look at our budget in the future.”

Robinson said an increase in construction costs would likely lead to a decrease in funds available for smaller projects that periodically pop up and are paid for out of the county’s unfunded projects list.

“We tend to budget conservatively,” Robinson said. “If costs start to go up dramatically, our unfunded project list may be unfulfilled. We’ve already seen the price of asphalt affect our road renovations.”

According to area contractors and lawmakers, luring skilled workers back to the area is not the only solution to the labor shortfall. There should also be an emphasis, they said, on locally run skilled-labor training programs.

Slapp lauded skilled-labor programs at SCTI intended to teach marketable skills.

“Folks are going to be leery about going into the construction industry after the recession,” Slapp said. “But skilled tradesmen will never be out of work. We need to emphasize the importance of learning a skill and being a good worker.”

Robinson added that programs such as a proposed local hiring initiative and the Suncoast Workforce project facilitate linking contractors to workers, allowing for a more efficient use of the existing labor force.

Sutter, whose company recently secured contracts to do the roofing renovations at the Sarasota County Courthouse and the new Macy’s being built at the Mall at University Town Center, said the labor shortage hasn’t forced him to turn down any projects — for now.

“Our biggest concern used to be securing financing and keeping our workers employed,” Sutter said. “Now it’s trying to find enough workers to get all our new projects off the ground.”

Construction jobs
By the numbers:
32,200: Sarasota construction industry workforce, July 2006
15,600: Sarasota construction industry workforce, July 2013
7%: Current estimated unemployment rate for Sarasota County
7.1%: Current estimated Florida unemployment rate
7.3%: Current national unemployment rate
320,000: Number of construction workers who dropped out of the national workforce during the Great Recession
$27,220: Median annual construction worker salary in Florida
$49,350: Median annual construction worker salary in New York

Construction Firms Seek More Workers from Abroad

Posted: September 9th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Employer & Student Visas, Immigration Reform, Sarasota Immigrants | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

Facing an acute labor shortage, big firms are lobbying to lift caps on foreign construction workers.


A national survey of construction firms found 74 percent were having problems finding qualified workers amid growing labor shortages in the industry.

The survey by Associated General Contractors of America comes as similar concerns have been raised among builders in Southwest Florida, with the new homes market ramping up and a tight inventory of existing homes.

In the Sunshine State, 80 percent of respondents told the AGC that they were having trouble filling key construction jobs.  Carpenters, laborers and iron workers were the most sought after positions.  The AGC said that builders nationwide are concerned that the problem is going to get worse.  “We need to take short- and long-term steps to make sure there are enough workers to meet future demand and avoid the costly construction delays that would come with labor shortages,” said Stephen Sandherr, the trade organization’s chief executive.
Some of the survey’s findings:
  • Seventy-four percent of the 700 responding firms nationwide said the jobs that were most difficult to fill were carpenters, equipment operators and laborers.
  • Fifty-three percent said they were also having a difficult time finding project supervisors, estimators and engineers.
  • Eighty-six percent of respondents said they expect it will remain difficult or get harder to find qualified craft workers while 72 percent say the market for professional positions will remain difficult or get worse.

To deal with the situation, 48 percent of responding firms said they are mentoring future craft workers while 38 percent are participating in career fairs and 33 percent are supporting high school-level construction skills academies.

Forty-seven percent said they are offering internships for construction professionals.

Looking to veterans

There was a 70 percent uptick in new home construction activity in Sarasota and Manatee counties this summer, but the industry is now running 50 percent below its employment peak in 2006, state records show.

As of July, construction accounted for 15,100 jobs in the two counties.

Area home builders have found at least one potential answer to the shortage: Military veterans.

The Home Builders Association Manatee-Sarasota and Suncoast Workforce, an entity that operates three Jobs Etc. employment center in the region, have crafted a pilot program aimed at alleviating the problem and providing jobs for vets, who sometimes struggle with unemployment.

Florida has an estimated 744,000 veterans in its labor force. Suncoast Workforce, meanwhile, has seen the number of veterans seeking help in Sarasota and Manatee counties rise 40 percent over the last two years, with about 1,900 now in the system looking for work.

New incentives provided by Congress in late 2011 could help homebuilders hire more vets. The IRS-guided VOW Hire Heroes Act extends tax breaks of $2,400 to employers who hire a veteran who has been jobless for a month, $5,600 for those unemployed at least six months and $9,600 for veterans who have been out of work six months or more and have a service-related disability.

The incentives can increase if the vet is also receiving some type of government assistance.

If builders have to train the new hires, the federal government also will help pick up the tab, paying half of the trainees’ paycheck for up to six months.


To deal with the issue at a national level, Sandherr, the AGC chief executive, is urging Congress to “jettison arbitrary caps” on construction workers that were included in immigration reform the U.S. Senate passed this year.

“Lifting those restrictions will go a long way to ensuring construction jobs left vacant by domestic labor shortages go to workers who are in the country legally,” he said.

The CEO also is urging local officials to “do more to ensure public school students have an opportunity to participate in programs that teach skills like construction.”

His organization’s survey, conducted in July and August, included nearly 700 construction firms, including Florida.

Sarasota Immigrant Learns to Live and Work Successfully in America

Posted: August 1st, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Sarasota Immigrants | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Susie Correia has been successfully living and working in America for over 7 years. Originally from the small Caribbean island of Trinidad, she first moved to the UK with her British husband in order to live and work there. She and her husband managed a B&B and several investment properties in Poole, on the southern coast of England. They had a son together and lived in Poole for 10 years.

When her son was 4 years old he decided that he wanted to be a tennis player. Ms. Correia did her research and found Nick Bolliterri Tennis Academy, now known as IMG Academy, in Bradenton. She moved to the Sarasota-Bradenton area and enrolled her son in the premier tennis academy. She also had to find a way to make a good living for herself and qualify for a visa in order to live and work in the States.

Not everything went perfectly for Ms. Correia. She and her husband filed for divorce. She decided not to waste any time and went back to school in order to make herself as marketable as possible. When we spoke with her she declared her inspiring motto: “You can go back [to school] at any age. You can do whatever you want as long as you put your mind to it.” She completed her education with a 4.0 GPA and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society and earned the Leadership Distinction Award. She obtained a degree as a medical assistant then became a licensed Aesthetician, Licensed Insurance Agent & long-term care agent.

Susie Correia Lives and Works Successfully in AmericaSusie Correia Lives and Works Successfully in America

Susie Correia Lives and Works Successfully in Sarasota

Ms. Correia had always worked for herself and wanted to continue to do so in both nutrition and skin care. She is an International Distributor for Nu Skin / Pharmanex and also became a registered and authorized operator of the Pharmanex Biophotonic Scanner®. This machine, featured on the Dr. Oz show, provides, in about 90 seconds and without a blood draw, a quantitative level of skin carotenoids, which correlates with systemic anti-oxidant levels. In other words, Ms. Correia can accurately measure vital nutritional biomarkers non-invasively in only minutes.

Armed with this important information, Ms. Correia can make recommendations that can positively impact her clients’ health.

Ms. Correia is now a permanent resident and lives and works in America. Her son, just as industrious as she, graduated from high school one year early, having skipped a grade, and with straight A’s. He still plays tennis and is pursuing a career on the ATP tour. Ms. Correia is currently working towards her own financial freedom by helping people be more healthy. As an anti-aging specialist she can help people stop the signs and symptoms of aging both internally and externally with visible results sometimes seen in minutes. You can contact her for a free demo.

Susie Correia Lives and Works Successfully in Sarasota

Susie Correia with her son

Susie Correia can be contacted through her email:, or her cell phone: 941-893-0996.  To learn more about the biophotonic scanner and the tools Ms. Correia has at her disposal to improve her clients’ health and skincare, visit click on United States, or transformations.  Or for the skincare click on United States and for the business opportunity visit and request the info on the password protected portion for further information.

In a final note, Susie is also involved in a charity that donates a bag of vitameal every month for $25/month.  With one bag you can feed 30 people.  To learn more visit Susie’s website:

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Means Potential Point-Based Visa System

Posted: June 17th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Employer & Student Visas, Investor Visas | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill (S. 744,  “The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,”) could overhaul the entire immigration system.  It could accelerate current Green Card applications, increase options for immigrant workers, investors, and entrepreneurs.  It could enable immigrant students to obtain green cards upon completion of certain courses of study.  It could create a path to legalization and citizenship for this nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

In addition, the bill could introduce a merit-based visa.  Once enacted, it would enable 120,000 immigrants to obtain permanent visas each year through the accumulation of points based on their skills, employment history, and level of education.  Visas would be allocated in two tiers with 50% of visas in each tier.  Tier one would encompass high-skilled immigrants and tier 2 would encompass low-skilled immigrants.  The points would be allocated as follows:

Figure 1

Figure 2

In both tiers employment history will play the biggest role, followed by education.  This system seeks to attract the best and brightest to our shores, those who can contribute immediately to our economy.  It seeks to discourage “chain migration” by downplaying family ties.

Immigration Reform would eliminate the diversity visa, the green card lottery that the US government holds every year.  Through the lottery, 50,000 green cards are given to applicants from countries with less than 5,000 immigrants from the previous year.  The program was designed to increase diversity in our immigration system and adjust for the large numbers of immigrants that come from over-represented countries.  The merit-based system would partially replace this system as well as the allowance for siblings of US citizens to apply for family-sponsored visas.

The biggest advantage of the merit-based system would go to legal immigrants who are already working in the US.  Immigrants who currently hold an E-1, E-2, L-1, H-1B or other similar working visa do not have a clear path to a permanent visa.  These visas are temporary and the immigrant must re-qualify from scratch every time they wish to renew; previous successful renewals and time spent in the country are not taken into account.  This creates quite a bit of uncertainty.  A Merit-Based Visa would create a direct path to a permanent visa for such people.

H1-B Cap Reached

Posted: June 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Employer & Student Visas, National News | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

FY 2013 H-1B Cap

On June 11, 2012, USCIS received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the statutory cap for FY 2013.  On June 7, 2012, USCIS also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption.  USCIS will reject petitions subject to the cap for H-1B specialty occupation workers seeking an employment start date in FY 2013 that are received after June 11, 2012.